Things are heating up in the Greater Pacific, in this article Foreign Policy examines five key spots to watch closely.

5 Flashpoints in the South China Sea

As tensions mount in the South China Sea, an isolated stretch of the South Pacific has become the latest testing ground for how a regionally ascendant China will manage ties with its neighbors. Many fear that China will steamroll its neighbors in securing access to lucrative natural resources — vast reserves of oil, natural gas, and minerals — in the South China Sea. China’s decision this week to name a little-known city on a postage stamp of an island in the South Pacific as the administrative capital of an enormous swath of ocean seemed to confirm those fears.

But what exactly is at stake in the South China Sea? For starters, as many as 213 billion barrels of oil –more than the reserves of any country except Saudi Arabia and Venezuela — according to a 2008 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As a result, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei are engaged in fierce jockeying over the rights to what at first glance are not more than a handful of rocks.

China’s newest prefecture-level city, Sansha governs a land area across the contested Spratly and Paracel Islands of 5 square miles, a number dwarfed by the 770,000 square miles of ocean China claims is under Sansha’s jurisdiction. Located on Woody Island, the largest island in the Paracels, Sansha is city of….[access full article]

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