[QODLink]
Inside Story
The world's most disputed waters
Has China raised tensions in the South China Sea by establishing a new city on a disputed island?
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2012 08:36

China is provoking tensions in the South China Sea by establishing a new city on a disputed island. But with the rule of law and diplomacy failing to provide a solution, what lengths will China go to to protect its territorial claims?

On Friday, China named two senior military generals to head a garrison in the South China Sea - on a group of islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

"This is kind of a chain reaction and it is difficult to say who provoked whom."

- Weixing Richard Hu, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong

The US has criticised the move, saying it is against measures that are seen as potential threats. But calls for dialogue are being ignored and tensions in the most disputed waters in the world are once again escalating.

The city, called Xansha, has a supermarket, a bank and a hospital - but very little else. Indeed, it has only 1,000 inhabitants.

Xiao Jie, the mayor of Xansha, told those attending the ceremony to mark the birth of China's newest city: "The establishment of Xansha city is a wise decision made by the party and the government of China to protect the sovereign rights of China and to strengthen the protection and the development of the natural resources."

China seized the Paracel Islands in 1974 after a small but bloody conflict with the then South Vietnamese. Their importance lies in the fact that the waters around them contain rich fishing grounds and potentially vast oil and gas reserves.

"This is not just about who owns what. But it is also about power and status, not only at the regional level but at the international level."

- Alessio Patalano, the director of the Asian Security and Warfare Research Group

But the Paracel Islands are not the only disputed territory in the South China Sea. The Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal are contested by six countries, including China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The South China Sea, which contains hundreds of small islands, islets and rocks, covers an area of over three million square kilometres.

The International Crisis Group, a leading global think tank, has said in a report that the chances of a peaceful resolution to the dispute are diminishing. Without a consensus, it says the tensions in the South China Sea could easily spill over into armed conflict.

So, as China raises the Chinese flag in Xansha, has it also raised the tensions in the South China Sea? And why is China making these seemingly very provocative moves right now?

Joining Inside Story to discuss this are guests: Alessio Patalano, the director of the Asian Security and Warfare Research Group; Weixing Richard Hu, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong; and Richard Weitz, the director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute.

"Multiple sides can cite different histories to justify their claims .... The big puzzle has been that for a decade, China made these claims very strongly initially but then cleverly stopped asserting them so blatantly .... But then for some reason, a couple of years ago, China started becoming a lot more belligerent and aggressive about its claims. And that led the other countries to start becoming more assertive about their counterclaims .... The interesting puzzle is why that change took place."

Richard Weitz, the director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis

660

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.
join our mailing list