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  • In May of 2015, China issued multiple warnings to a US surveillance plane. They asserted

  • that the US had flown over their artificial islands in the South China Sea unprovoked.

  • In response the US defended their reconnaissance flight in light of China’s aggressive claims

  • over the disputed area. So what’s going on? Why is the South China Sea so important?

  • Well, for starters, the South China sea is one of the most highly disputed regions in

  • the world. The roughly one and a half million square mile zone is bordered by China, Brunei,

  • Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. All have overlapping

  • claims over different parts of the region. Most significantly, China has asserted its

  • sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, violating the Exclusive Economic Zones

  • of every bordering country. Most of those countries also have competing claims over

  • a number of nearby islands, primarily the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

  • So, why are all these countries fighting over this region? Well, for starters, the South

  • China Sea is the second most used sea lane in the world, and hosts a third of all overseas

  • shipping. It also represents a third of the world’s marine biodiversity, meaning that

  • fishing rights are heavily disputed. But perhaps more importantly, beneath the sea of water

  • is a massive sea of oil and natural gas. Some estimates have suggested that there are about

  • 28 billion barrels worth of oil under the seabed, along with around 266 trillion cubic

  • feet of natural gas.

  • So who really owns the area? Well, China claims that theyve owned the Paracel and Spratly

  • Islands, including the surrounding waters, since the 3rd century. Archaeological finds

  • from the 5th century support this claim. However, Vietnam says that they officially documented

  • their rights to the islands back in the 17th century. This is well before China legally

  • staked its claim in the 19th century. The Philippines, on the other hand, claim dominion

  • based on proximity, as the Spratly Islands are closest to them. Meanwhile, Malaysia and

  • Brunei have used the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to say that their Exclusive

  • Economic Zones give them rights to parts of the South China Sea.

  • This dispute has led to a number of Island invasions and battles, mostly between China

  • and Vietnam. In the 70s and 80s, China twice fought Vietnam over the islands, and killed

  • more than a hundred soldiers and sailors in total. Then, in 2012, China created an administrative

  • body in the Paracel Islands, in spite of Vietnam and the Philippines. Two years later they

  • began drilling for oil in Vietnam’s disputed area. China’s aggressive actions have created

  • a strong sense of conflict between the Southeast Asian countries, and even with US diplomatic

  • intervention, it doesn’t seem as though China is willing to back down.

  • There’s a ship patrolling the South China Sea that’s been active since World War 2,

  • protecting Philippine Waters from the Chinese reach. To learn more about this fascinating

  • vessel, check out Seeker’s video here. Thanks for watching TestTube, don’t forget to subscribe!

In May of 2015, China issued multiple warnings to a US surveillance plane. They asserted

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