Recently, the US Indo-Pacific Command, the United States Armed Forces’ unified combatant command for the Indo-Pacific region, released a statement on its website.
- It said that China’s Navy J-11 fighter pilot performed an unsafe maneuver during an intercept of a U.S.
- Air Force RC-135 aircraft, which was lawfully conducting routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace.”
- China is yet to react to the United State’s statement.
- Notably, China claims a huge part of the South China Sea as its own territory though these claims are not recognised by most other countries and international institutions.
A territorial dispute dating back to the 1970s
- The South China Sea is among the volatile regions of the world. Lying just south of the Chinese mainland, it is bordered by Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
- As early as the 1970s, these countries began to claim islands (mostly uninhabited) throughout the sea to lay control over the various resources that the region possessed, such as untapped oil reserves, natural gas, and fishing areas.
- It also has some of the most active shipping lanes on the planet.
- Today, China’s sweeping claims over the sea have antagonised other countries in the region.
- China claims the sea as its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), arguing that other countries do not have the right to conduct any military or economic operation without its consent.
- This claim is disputed by the southeast Asian countries and in 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague issued its ruling on a claim brought against China by the Philippines under UNCLOS.
- It ruled in favour of the Philippines on almost every count.
- However, China, which itself is a signatory to UNCLOS, refused to acknowledge the court’s authority.
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