Saturday, February 29, 2020

Sovereignty Assertion in the South China Sea/the East Sea: Militarization and Construction of Artificial Islands

The South China Sea/the East Sea is a semi-enclosed sea that links the Indian Ocean with the Western Pacific. The security of the sea lanes that pass through it are vital for global commerce. It is estimated that more than US$ 5.3 trillion in commerce passes through the South China Sea/the East Sea annually. In addition, secure passage through and overflight are vital for the world’s major maritime powers. Any outbreak of conflict or disruption to the sea lanes would have an immediate and serious impact on the world’s economy.

This paper provides an analytic overview of militarization and the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea/the East Sea by five claimants: China, Taiwan (China), Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. The paper is divided into three parts. Part One considers what activities constitute militarization. The paper argues that militarization constitutes a spectrum of activities from putting military forces on a particular feature to making preparations for war. Along this spectrum, there is a grey area where activity such as constructing airfields, piers and ports can serve both civilian and military roles. The paper argues that the placement of fighter aircraft, anti-ship missiles, amphibious landing ships and naval warships constitutes militarization at the high end of the scale that threaten regional peace and security. Part Two discusses what military forces, weapons and equipment have been placed on the features in the Spratly islands by the five claimants. Part Three, the conclusion, discusses the implications for regional security following the award by the Arbitral Tribunal that heard the claims of The Philippines vs. China.

Key words: the South China Sea/the East Sea, sovereignty, militarization, claimant states.

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In this Issue

  1. VIETNAM'S FOREIGN POLICY
  2. THE EAST SEA ISSUES
  3. INTERNATIONAL ISSUES
  4. RESEARCH AND EXCHANGE

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