Much at Stake

Vast oil reserves, trillion-dollar trade routes, fervent nationalist sentiments, competing territorial claims and bitter histories – the waters off the east coast of China are a sea of money and a sea of trouble.

Much at stake for US as tensions rise in troubled China Seas

Tensions have been rising for several years and recently hit new heights with activists landing on disputed islands, angry diplomatic exchanges and even a threat to deploy troops, prompting fears of an armed conflict that could potentially involve the United States, China, Japan and other nations.

The South China Sea has a myriad of competing claims of ownership: China staked out most of it in 1947 but its neighbors have never accepted it. The Spratly Islands alone are claimed by a total of five countries: China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam.

All are eyeing oil and gas reserves thought to be so rich that the area has become dubbed “The Second Persian Gulf.” Also, an estimated $5 trillion worth of trade is shipped through its waters.

In a speech last month in Cambodia, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told members of the Asean group of nations – which includes the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia – that “maritime security” was one of a number of issues in the region of “central importance” to the U.S., and spoke of “transnational threats” as one area of U.S. government focus.

But perhaps the most dangerous potential flashpoint is farther north in the East China Sea. China and Japan both claim ownership of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands – known as Diaoyu in Chinese – with strong nationalist feelings on ……[access full article]

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