Why South China Sea is a hotbed of confrontation

Beijing Edited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Mar 23, 2021, 07:47 AM IST

A file photo of an island in South China Sea Photograph:(Reuters)

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South China Sea is a strategic waterway surrounded by six nations, such as China, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei

China is carrying out incursions, sinking foreign ships, establishing new districts, giving Chinese names to islands, building new artificial islands and using fishing vessels as maritime militias in the South China Sea. 

Let us get to know about the strategic importance of the South China Sea and Beijing's never-ending nefarious activities in the region. 

South China Sea is a strategic waterway surrounded by six nations, such as China, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.  

Two groups of islands here are at the centre of a fierce territorial dispute. The first is the Paracel Archipelago, contested by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. 

The second are the Spratly Islands, disputed between China and all other five nations. These islands are strategic because they are surrounded by waters teeming with marine life and are rich in oil and gas resources.  

One-third of the world's shipping traffic also passes through the South China Sea. Beijing claims sovereignty over nearly the entire sea. 

It uses a map from the 1940s to justify its territorial claims and military aggression aimed at making others accept its claims.  

In March 2020, Chinese vessels rammed into a Taiwanese coast guard ship. In April 2020, a Chinese surveillance ship hit and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat. 

The next month, China deployed an exploration vessel near Malaysia's exclusive economic zone. The frequency of harassment increased throughout 2020. Beijing strengthened its position amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

China established new administrative districts in the disputed waters with official Chinese names. At least 25 islands and reefs in the South China Sea have been named in Mandarin. 

The Global Times says the standardisation of names reflects China's sovereignty over them and to further strengthen these claims of sovereignty. China has established several artificial or man-made islands like the Fiery Cross and the Subi Reef, where Chinese research stations are conducting field navigation and scientific surveys. 

Now, reports have emerged that Chinese maritime militias are operating in the area. These militias are primarily fishing vessels that are being used to augment the Chinese navy's operations. 

The vessels possess sophisticated communication and GPS technology. They use swarm warfare tactics to enhance China's nefarious endeavours and assert Beijing's territorial claims.  

These militias have become a critical feature of China's expansionist strategy and could trigger a fresh flare-up in the tense South China Sea.