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Face Off in the South China Sea Over Oil

Updated on May 14, 2012
The Chinese Navy
The Chinese Navy
The Map of Contention
The Map of Contention
The spark- Chinese fishing boat seized by the Philippine Navy
The spark- Chinese fishing boat seized by the Philippine Navy
China's first oil rig there
China's first oil rig there
The US Navy in the area
The US Navy in the area

Everything is not hunky dory in South China Sea, an ocean that borders China, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Take a closer look at the contentious nations - they all have small navies, all claim areas of the sea as theirs, and all distrust China now and historically.

The map shows a the looming red dragon nation of China, a new powerhouse, against small, incidental nations. The only other "big boy" in this area, based in the Philippines is the USA. China is now flexing its muscle in tip toe fashion by using its navy to stake out what they believe is theirs - it just happens to be the same area that the Philippines claims.

The recent discovery of vast amounts of oil in the Spratly Islands and Scarborough shoal area, estimated at 213 billion barrels or 80% of what Saudi Arabia has has created something worth fighting over. That latter is 500 miles from the Philippines. The rise of rhetoric and threats are now being backed by actions on the part of China. The Philippine Navy recently seized Chinese fishing boats for poaching. This was the excuse to increase tensions that China needed.

China has increased increased the number from 14 last week to 30 presently. Some 23 of them are utility ships associated with China's first oil rig in the area, three are armed naval ships and the remaining are fishing boats in the disputed area. Then, China has suspended its citizens traveling to the Philippines and the PLA (People's Liberation Army) issues a stern warning to the Philippines and US regarding these area: China would not allow anyone to challenge China's sovereignty over the disputed territory, not one inch.

The US has basically responded by deploying its Navy in the area of the Philippines and Singapore. This has irritated the Chinese and once again, they issued a statement stating basically the South China Sea is none of our business, so stay out of it. Not so.

The discovery of such huge amounts of oil makes this the reason. A reason to fight over it if peaceful means cannot be found. It only takes a spark of war to ignite a larger conflict.


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    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Phillipines have been disputing control of the Spratley Islands since at least the mid 1980s. in the 80s China was just starting to develop and pull itself out of the mess created by the Cultural Revolution. A lot of people in China still didn't have a pot to piss in and China's navy wasn't what it is today. I understand that China has recently launched its first aircraft carrier. It isn't surprising that the PRC is starting to flex its muscle in the Spratleys. Voted up and sharing.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thanks guys. I can't see a war over the oil, but, I can see some skirmishes as countries want a piece of the oil. China and Vietnam have seldom be allies in history. They dislike one another. Even in the Vietnam war, it was Russia that supported the North with weapons. In fact, there was a brief fight between China and Nam in the late 70s along the border.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Another nice hub, perrya. It's interesting (and frightening) to see powerful nations squaring off against each other. I think ordinary people in all nations feel helpless as this happens, wondering where it all leads to. We can only hope, in his case, that the South China Sea doesn't become the Balkans of the Pacific. Voted up and interesting.

    • kschang profile image


      6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      I would have to differ on the books. SSN was one of the WORST books Tom Clancy had ever written. In SSN, one US sub sunk the Chinese navy twice over (I am NOT kidding). Sky Masters is a bit better, but not quite up to par of his other books, like Air Battle Force or even Flight of the Old Dog.

      But back to Spratlies, there are protests by Filipinos in front of Chinese consulates all over the world. Though the protest in Manila fizzled.

    • handymanbill profile image


      6 years ago from western pennsylvania

      Great Hub. Both of those are good books.I can't see how we could make a claim on the oil their. But we have been friends with the Philippines and have treaties with them. So it might become an interesting development. We do not need as a country to get involved into another war.

    • kschang profile image


      6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      That hotspot had been LONG postulated in fiction. Tom Clancy did it in SSN, and Dale Brown did it in Sky Masters.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 

      6 years ago from Texas

      It is quite interesting to see China now face off with so many countries (like Vietnam) that it supported in the 60's in efforts against the USA. While I see it difficult to make the US argument that we (as a nation) have claim to that oil, I certainly see why the people of the Philippines would be prone to do so. I doubt there is any small nation in Asia that can face off directly with China and come away a winner without heavy support and involvement from the USA. The question then arises, "Does control of that oil shape our future when we already have so much at home that we are not willing to explore or exploit?" Do we really want to shed the blood of young soldiers again in SE Asia for oil that we have at home? This is a very interesting turn of events...nice write. WB


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