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Publisher Description

The Spratly Islands were long known to mariners as "Dangerous Ground" because of their many uncharted reefs. The South China Sea--where the Spratlys are among the many disputed islands--has proven to be hazardous to diplomatic navigation as well. Because of conflicting sovereignty claims, the South China Sea has become the fulcrum of concerns between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Southeast Asia. The United States joined the dispute when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed an American "national interest" in the area during her speech to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) July 2010 in Hanoi. (2) But the South China Sea--and the Spratlys in particular--are an unlikely centre of attention. The reason that there are overlapping claims is that there has never been an indigenous population and there are no significant above-ground resources to which historical claims might be attached. The possibility of oil and gas is tempting but remains to be proven, and in any case it would be a major technological and logistical challenge to produce and transport petroleum there. If any state, including China, attempted to seize the Spratlys by force, they would find development difficult, supply lines vulnerable and the costs in regional relationships excessive. If any state used territorial claims in the South China Sea to obstruct innocent passage of international commerce they would be violating international law to which all are parties. The only reasonable approach to dispute management is the one outlined in the ASEAN-China 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC): peaceful cooperation. (3)

Politics & Current Events
December 1
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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