China has decided to establish a military garrison in Sansha municipality of Yongxing island, which is 220 miles away from the southernmost part of mainland China. The South China Sea is an area of intense conflict where, China and five of its neighbors – Vietnam, Taiwan, The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia claim various territories. They all want a piece of this oil rich region, but China claims the whole area to be its own.
Beijing cannot establish much military power there, because Yongxing is a small island with just over 1000 people, and it doesn’t even have sufficient space to build airstrips. However, Chinese officials say that Sansha municipality will administer the hundreds of miles of its surrounding sea to maintain China’s control over the disputed area.
There have been several sour incidences in the region. India’s biggest oil explorer ONGC Videsh Ltd. AKA Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Limited (NSE:ONGC) (BOM:500312) has been exploring oil in collaboration with Vietnam in South China Sea. The Chinese authorities threatened Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Limited (NSE:ONGC) (BOM:500312) to make them stop the exploration and back off from the sea, and once, the Chinese Navy also stopped an Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Limited ship to enter the region.
The Dilemma of America
Washington, which has been helping Southeast Asian countries to put a check on China’s rising military influence, is in a dilemma. If Obama’s administration criticizes Beijing too harshly, it may strain the relationship with the United States’ biggest trading partner. On the other hand, President Obama can’t play soft with China, as the presidential election is approaching. His opponent, Mitt Romney, has accused Obama many times for being weak on China, Romney also vowed he will get strict on China’s military and trading practices.
The USA’s national interest is to maintain peace and stability in The South China Sea, and it strongly states that the ASEAN countries should collectively negotiate the issue with China. The statement has tempered China, which claims control over the entire South China sea, and wants to negotiate the terms with each claimant individually without US intervention.
The Republican senator, John McCain, said, “The decision by China’s Central Military Commission to deploy troops to islands in the South China Sea, which are also claimed by Vietnam, is unnecessarily provocative. The move only reinforces why many Asian countries are increasingly concerned about China’s expansive territorial claims, which has no basis in international law, and the possibility that China will attempt to impose those claims through intimidation and coercion. The actions by Beijing are disappointing and not befitting a responsible great power. We must continue to urge all parties with territorial claims in the South China Sea to seek a peaceful, multilateral resolution that is based on international law.”
China hasn’t declared when it will be establishing the garrison.