China-Vietnam at loggerheads over oil exploration in South China Sea

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China will stop at nothing short of having exclusive control over all of South China Sea. This is a message well conveyed by the emerging superpower through the latest flare-up with Vietnam over drilling an oil rig near the disputed Paracel Islands. The area, together with the Islands, fall within a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone of Vietnam.

Background

  • Apart from oil exploration, the two neighbours also have had strained relationship over fishing rights and ownership of the Spratly and Paracel Islands.
  • (China had occupied the Paracel Islands from US-backed South Vietnam in 1974)
  • Its notable that China has fought a brief border war in 1979 with its communist neighbour Vietnam. 
  • Everyone wants to have a pie of this territory (South China Sea) considered to possess vast oil and natural gas reserve.
  • Many countries like; Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping territorial claim over it - mostly vis-a-vis China.
  • Its for the world to see to it that another war between the two over this flashpoint does not ensue.
  • It won't be exaggeration to say that this area has all the potential of turning into a major flashpoint for a major hegemonic regional war.

South China Sea

  • This marginal sea is part of the Pacific Ocean spred across an area of around 3,500,000 square kilometres. (slightly bigger than India)
  • One-third of the world's shipping moves through its waters. 
  • Its also the second most used sea lane in the world.

Disputed territories claimed by China

  • Competing over water North-East to the Natuna Islands with Indonesia and Taiwan.
  • Claim over Scarborough Shoal with Philippines and Taiwan.
  • With Vietnam and Taiwan over waters west of the Spratly Islands. 
  • This is where the battle is the most fierce with almost all the islands disputed between Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
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