ONE reason China’s spectacular rise sometimes alarms its neighbours is that it is not a status quo power. From its inland, western borders to its eastern and southern seaboard, it claims territory it does not control.
Many of the geopolitical conflicts in the East Pacific have their roots in the territorial disputes over islands that at first glance seem as if they wouldn’t be worth the trouble; how did this become a tense situation? Since the UNCLOS agreement gives countries 200 nautical miles off their coasts to be an Exclusive Economic Zone, that greatly enhanced the strategic value of controlling these islands and the shipping lanes. The United States, to counter Chinese claims, has used the Navy to go near some of the claimed (and reclaimed) islands recently. This interactive map briefly highlights some of the details behind the conflicts with links for further readings.
Questions to Ponder: Why do countries care so much about some minor islands? Why would other countries not want to accept China’s territorial assertions?