South China Sea Current Affairs

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China condemns US warship’s passage near disputed islands in South China Sea

China has strongly condemned US warship’s passage near disputed artificial islands in the South China Sea spiraling tensions between both nations.

On 22 October 2015, guided missile destroyer USS Lassen had entered the 12-nautical mile zone claimed by China around Zhubi reefs in the Spratly archipelago in South China Sea.

China is claiming its full sovereignty over these disputed islands and its adjacent waters in South China Sea.

  • China’s Argument: Patrolling and non-permitted entry of US Ship in Spratly archipelago has threatened its sovereignty and security interests and also harmed the regional peace and stability.
  • US Argument: The warship has entered in this region as it is having right of freedom of navigation in international waters and does not require any prior permission.

It is said that the US warship had undertaken this patrolling operation as part of its Freedom of Navigation programme aimed at challenging China’s claims over the artificial islands created in this disputed waters.

Background of Disputes in South China Sea

  • Disputes in South China Sea is fight mainly between China, Philippines, Vietnam over the  territory and sovereignty of Spratly and Parcels islands in South China Sea along with other atolls, reefs and rocky outcrops.
  • Importance of these islands: They are strategically located in South China Sea which is major international shipping route as world’s half merchant ships passes through it.
  • They are also having reserves of natural resources around them including petroleum.
  • China’s claim: It is saying that major portion of these islands belong to them as part of the historical events and area defined by Nine Dash Line.
  • Under its claim, China already has started and even completed building artificial islands and even strategic runways for mobilising its airforce from these islands.
  • India’s position: Explicitly supports and believes in international laws and arbitration process for resolving the disputes for regional stability.

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US, Japan, India to coordinate China policies

United States, Japan and India have decided to coordinate policies in addressing China’s increasing maritime activities.

This decision was taken in first Japan-US-India trilateral meeting held in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.

It was attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Key facts

  • In the meeting, Japan has expressed strong concerns over China’s rapid ongoing unilateral activities which aim at changing the status quo in the South China Sea.
  • Japan also mentioned that China’s massive land reclamation projects followed by construction of a facility including for military purposes have further heightened tensions.
  • In the meeting, all 3 nations agreed that the rule of law should be observed and all international disputes should be settled peacefully to maintain peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Three parties also agreed to launch a trilateral meeting of experts in order to enable joint rescue and relief efforts in the event of major disasters.

Comment

From the US perspective, the first Japan-US-India trilateral meeting is seen as part of its “pivot” toward Asia policy to counterbalance China’s influence in Southeast Asia  and in case for India it is considered as part of its ambitious Act East Asia Policy.

Background

  • Currently, China is involved in numerous territorial and maritime disputes with countries in South China Sea including Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Philippines and Taiwan.
  • In response to China’s unilateral actions, US has asked it to immediately halt its land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea.

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Japan and China hold first security talks after 4 years

Japan and China on 19 March 2015 held their first security talks in Tokyo after four years since the ties had worsened over a row over islands in the East China Sea.

In the security talks both nations agreed to keep alive and foster a nascent recovery in bilateral ties plagued by the legacy of Japan’s wartime aggression and a territorial dispute.

However, both nations failed to set a timetable for the implementation of a scheme designed to ensure real-time communication between their armed forces.

Background of East China Sea dispute

  • Sino-Japanese relations had worsened after China had claimed its rights over the group of tiny East China Sea islets.
  • The islets comprises group of eight uninhabited islands and rocks. They have a total area of about 7 sq km in China Sea and are controlled by Japan.
  • These islets are close to strategically important shipping lanes in this region and also offer rich fishing grounds. The region surrounding these islets is also thought to contain oil deposits.
  • China claims that these islets have been part of its territory since ancient times. While, Taiwan separately is also claiming its right the islands.

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