Written By Keshav Mohta (Grade 8)


The South China Sea (a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean) has been a disputed area for very long. It is the sea stretching from the Malacca Straits to Taiwan, neighbouring the coasts of eight countries: China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The sea has two major sets of uninhabited islands. The sea is important to the nations around for multiple reasons:

  • Oil and Gas resources
  • Fishing Opportunities
  • A busy shipping route
Chinese 9-dash line

The issue dates all the way back to 1947, where the Chinese government put in place the eleven-dotted line claiming almost the whole of the sea. Later China under the new government published a map in 1953 where only 9 of 11 lines remained. The situation was peaceful, till the past 2 decades, when China has started militarising the sea and started setting up naval bases on the islands.

The major players in the game are China, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and the US. The first four of these have multiple claims on different territories of the sea. China, Vietnam and Taiwan essentially claim the region on the basis of historical account. Philippines claims a part of it under a UN convention which allows it to have 200 nautical miles of the sea from its coast under its complete authority.

Claims made by the different countries

Currently the sea is getting militarised day after day and incidents between competing countries are becoming increasingly frequent, elevating the risk of escalation. The issue also draws interest to many other countries who are directly or indirectly involved. The US, Japan and India also have a lot at stake.

The US doesn’t want the sea going into the hands of the Chinese who could monopolize trade given the sea’s geography. India has deals with Vietnam for oil mining in the sea and Japan is at a risk of Chinese occupation in the North China Sea. The Philippines have filed a case at the Hague (International Court of Justice), in light of the recent Chinese military aggression. The other nations involved are only a few inches away from what we can call a Mexican stand-off.

The situation is only escalating as the US, runs military campaigns across the sea with its allies, Philippines and Vietnam. Other stakeholders are not too far behind and the situation could certainly escalate into the dreaded World War III. As Nathan Bedford Forrest (a confederate general during the American civil war) once famously said – “War means fighting, and fighting means killing.”


This article was originally published in I Kid You Not.

Featured Image Courtesy – I Kid You Not

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