5 countries in Southeast Asia namely; Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and China, have competing territorial and jurisdictional claims particularly over rights to exploit the region’s possibly extensive reserves of oil and gas.
The sea’s alleged more than 10 billion barrels of untapped oil and almost 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas have recently raged much wider tensions. Such tensions are forming—and are being formed by—rising apprehensions about the growth of China’s assertion of sovereignty, regional intentions, and specifically it’s rising military leverage.
In 1947, Beijing issued a map-detailing claims that says its right to the area goes back centuries to when the Paracel and Spratly island chains were regarded as integral parts of the Chinese nation. However, those claims were only emulated by Taiwan.
Meanwhile, Vietnam vehemently argues China’s historical account because Vietnam actively ruled over both the Paracels and the Spratlys since the 17th century and has documents to prove it.
Malaysia and Brunei also lay claim the territory and some small number of islands in the Spratlys that falls within their EEZ or Exclusive Economic Zone, as defined by UNCLOS or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The other major claimant in the area is also the Philippines, which invokes its geographical proximity to the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal (known as Huangyan Island in China) as the main basis with a little more than 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines compare to 500 miles from China.
In addition, the Philippines have gone to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague as a last resort to ask for technical ruling about the extent of the territorial waters that can be claimed on the basis of possession of various coastlines, islands and rocks, sandbanks and reefs.
Just as shown in the satellite images last April, 2015, China builds an airstrip on the reclaimed land in Spratlys. As expected, despite the authority of IC (International Court) ruling in favor most of the Philippines, China’s insistence of its history and strategic advantage engaging military presence is becoming more and more assertive to push for it by force.
Chinese officials and its Southeast Asian leaders continue to strain its foreign relations and maritime disputes due to failed diplomatic means and contested positions resulting into continued military clashes.