Sunday, 2 May 2010

SPRATLY ISLANDS the CONFLICT (impending doom)

The Spratly Islands of the South China Sea are a potential tinder box in the region. Approximately 44 of the 51 small island and reef are claimed or occupied by China, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei. The conflict is the result of the overlapping sovereignty claims to various Spratly Islands thought to possess substantial natural resources chiefly --- OIL, NATURAL GAS, and SEAFOOD. Dispute have been propelled by aggressive China eager to meet growing energy demands that outstrip it's supply capability. Overlapping claims resulted in several military incidents since 1974 and in several countries awarding foreign companies exploration rights in the same area of the south China Sea. Regional nation-states not directly involved in the Spratly disputes became concerned about the regional stability.

The Spratly Islands consist of 100-230 islets, coral reefs and sea mounts. Despite the fact that the archipelago is spread over 250,000 sqkm of sea space, the total land mass of the Spratly island is a mere 5 sqkm. The land is not arable does not support permanent crops, and has no meadows, pasture or forest. But one study conducted by China estimated oil reserves in the South China Sea to be larger than Kuwait's present reserves. Oil and natural gas reserves in Spratly region are estimated at 17.7 billion tons while Kuwait's reserves amount to 13 billion tons. The Spratly reserves place it as the fourth reserve bed worldwide.
China entered the dispute in three phases:
1st phase: encompassed China's claim to the Paracel Island (which are north the Spratly Islands) in the 1950.
2nd phase: took place in 1974, when China seized the Paracel Islands from Vietnam
3rd phase: began on March 14 1988 with China military engagement with Vietnamese forces over the removal of China's flag from a newly claimed shoal. The military clashed in China gaining possession of 6 island in the Spratly. China's claim to all island in the Spratly archipelago stems from its historical presence in the region, dating as far back as the Han dynasty of the 2nd century B.C. China's historical claim is dubious and neglects similar historical claims by Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia. Moreover China's historical interpretation of its sovereignty rights ignores current international law.

Claims part of island in the Spratly region. Vietnam's only oil well in production as of 1991 is the white tiger field 400 west of the Creaston block. In 1992 however Vietnam hastened leasing to foreign exploration.

Claims approximately 60 of islands in the Spratly region. Joint exploration with Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Alcon International near the Palawan Island will raise the Philippine annual oil production from the 3,000 barrel/day in 1991 from 7 wells in the south China sea.

The following table depicts the military strength of each of the three main countries in the Spratly dispute CHINA, VIETNAM, and PHILIPPINES.

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