Sea Turtles Could Cause the Next War
In the waters around the Philippines, there are five of the seven of the world's species of sea turtles. They are truly an astonishing animal to look at due to the their size. One area known for good hunting by poachers are the Spratly islands. Also in the area are oil and natural gas resources, yet untapped. China has already claimed much of the South China Sea as their own territorial water. Not surprisingly, they are the areas with the rich resources.
Another contested area are the Paracel Islands, which sit on top of huge oil reserves that China wants. In their way is Vietnam, who also claims them as theirs. China, being the bully it is, recently sent a flotilla of ships to deploy an oil rig that is about 300 yards or more in size. The Chinese flotilla was a show force- a total of 80 ships (seven were armed naval vessels with aircraft). The flotilla and the oil rig, owned by Chinese Oil, sailed to a spot within the 200 mile territorial waters of Vietnam. This prompted the 30 ships of the Vietnamese coast guard to confront them. What followed was an intense face-off and incidents of opposing ships being rammed. No gunfire occurred, but, the two countries (both fought a small war in 1979 along their borders) were determined. China issued a statement that the $1 billion dollar rig was 225 miles south of mainland China and 120 miles east of Vietnam was legal.
When Vietnam demanded the Chinese flotilla turnaround, the Chinese responded by ramming several Vietnamese ships blocking the way causing injuries. Vietnam indicated that if the ramming continues, it would act in self-defense. China said it would negotiate only if Vietnam withdrew their flotilla. The oil platform is mobile and China plans to conduct deep sea drilling by moving the rig to other areas of the South China Sea. China claims 1.35 million square miles of the this sea, or 90%! The Chinese slowly encroach and gradually overwhelm adversaries like they did to the Philippines in 2012 and the Scarborough Shoal. Because of Vietnamese fears, they have bought several military naval vessels and submarines and the US joined them in naval exercises in 2012.
China is not going to back down, they are too big. But one can see how the US will be dragged into regional conflicts because only they could stand up to them.
A few days after the standoff, the Philippines seized several Chinese fishing vessels for poaching in protected areas that are disputed-the Spratly Islands. This is rich zone for sea turtles and when the Chinese boats were seized, 500 turtles were discovered. The Chinese poachers were quickly protected by their government with a warning to the Philippines not to be provocative. Poachers face up to 12 years in prison and $22,000 in fines. China demanded their release.
Chinese hunger for the natural resources of the rich South China Sea will only increase as years go by, as their population increases and demands occur and as other imported resources diminish. One can easily see how this will play out more and more between the bully and the its neighbors. The only thing to keep them in check is an equal force, the US.