Tuesday, July 7, 2009

South China Sea Competition: China Contemplates More Mischief

On June 11, 2009 a Chinese Navy submarine reportedly collided with the towed sonar array of the U.S. Navy destroyer U.S.S. John S. McCain, about 144 miles from Subic Bay in the Philippines.[1] Previously on March 8, 2009 Chinese Maritime Militia ships harassed the U.S.S. Impeccable on a surveillance mission about 75 miles from Hainan Island.[2] These incidents illustrate a growing tension between China, the United States and other Asian nations over China’s increasing militarization of the South China Sea. This region’s sea lanes are critical to Asia’s economic vitality, while the six littoral states have overlapping claims and occupy varying numbers of islets in the Paracel and Spratly Island chains. China claims most of the South China Sea as its territory and at times has sought to calm tensions by acceding to regional negotiations designed to advance economic cooperation while setting aside territorial claims, though as of yet there is no regional framework to settle conflicting claims. Furthermore, China has long claimed that provisions of the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty allow it to forbid foreign military activities within its Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ), an interpretation that Washington rejects.

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