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InternationalTension in the South China Sea

November 1, 2015

The President of China, Xi Jinping, recently visited the U.S. He met with President Obama. One of their conversations focused on Chinese island building in the South China Sea. This action by the Chinese is causing tensions to increase in the area.

The Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea are part of a territorial dispute in the region. They are important economically for shipping and fishing. They also have unexplored natural gas and oil resources.  However, multiple surrounding countries claim these islands.

In fact, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan have all been reclaiming land to build islands in the area for the past 45 years.  The reclamation process is simple. Sediment is pumped up from the sea floor and sent through a pipe to a reef. As the sediment piles up, the reef grows and gradually forms an island.

But now China has joined in and rapidly reclaimed seven new little islands in the past 18 months. Along with buildings and other construction, it has built airstrips for large planes. Other countries in the area are very concerned about this Chinese expansion. China is a big and rich country and may want more control and power in the region.

President Obama wants to make sure that this waterway remains free. 40% of world trade passes through these waters.

President Xi said that “construction activities” targeted no country, and that “China does not intend to pursue militarization.”

Published November 2015

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