Peace & Stability Journal Volume 7, Issue 1 - Page 29

A crucial construct of the United Nations (UN) Convention On the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the defined rights of a coastal state within their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 3 A county’s EEZ is defined under Article 57 of the convention as extensions of defined territorial rights extending from a coastal state’s shoreline or natural offshore islands up to 200 nautical miles. 4 This radius gives coastal countries rights to conserve nat- ural resources, explore, and exploit this marine territory. 5 How- ever, the EEZs do not provide for interfering with shipping or trade. Under China’s historic “nine dash line” claim, they have territory within the boundaries of other country’s EEZs. The ruling of The Hague in theory solves this issue, telling China that their claims are excessive. However, there is little evidence to indicate China has any intention of backing down on their territorial aggression and imposition of their claim. One way that China is gradually working to drive out all op- posing forces in the region is through their build up of a “Mar- itime Militia,” a nominally unofficial marine force tasked with patrolling the area and interfering with other shipping. 6 China uses the maritime militia is to police the seas around the roughly 1,170 hectares (1hectare= 2.471 acres or 10,000 square meters) of land that they have reclaimed in the South China Sea. 7 China also uses this Maritime Militia as a way to continue on their path of expanding control and making Freedom of Navigation mis- sions harder for the US, all while making their actions plausibly deniable to the international public eye. Something that has not been inherently clear are the underlying potential security vulnerabilities to the US and regional allies that lie within the waters of the South China Sea. The South Chia Sea possesses a myriad of military advantages for the Chi- China’s possession of this excess territory, specifically within nese, if China were able to traverse these waters without scrutiny. other countries EEZ, is certainly detrimental to surrounding na- These advantages have the potential for creating disparities in tions that might benefit and profit from these resources for their the US’s defensive capabilities and their ability to collect pro- economies. But the economic gain they stand to win does not tective intelligence on China’s maneuver forces. The US needs explain the lengths to which China is willing to go to keep their to evaluate these potential threats to our national security, and access and power. By being uncompromising with their territo- develop strategies and responses for various Chinese escalation rial exploits, China has put a lot of countries on the defensive by and provocation measures. shadowing vessels with either their Navy or Maritime Militia, China, having complete control of the South China Sea, poses a and has interfered with flights by the US military and other threat to the US’ ability to aid our ally, Taiwan. With the South countries. This state of conflict has led to strained and unstable China Sea being to the south of Taiwan it is strategically import- interactions between different nation’s military and trade ves- sels, and could be a prelude to hostile harassment turning into a ant that the US has unimpeded access should a direct invasion ever occur. Over the years, China has made various threats to tangible confrontation. take Taiwan by force, particularly when Taiwan has become Due to the strained circumstances under which countries are too 'independent minded'. US support to Taiwan is a delicate trying to go about peaceful economic navigation of these wa- balancing act. Should China have the ability to deny US Navy ters, the US should continue to deploy Freedom of Navigation operations in the South China Sea through the deployment of (FON) missions. There is some level of inherent risk in doing its own forces, it would impact the balance of power and the this because the US and China have had many tense interac- strategy for the relief of Taiwan should the need arise. tions over the past few years when carrying out FON missions, that could potentially turned into one side using military force Strategically, control over the South China Sea also gives China against the other. But the benefits of the US, as well as our allies the capability to more easily position sea based nuclear deter- in the region, being free to conduct their economic activities rents within striking range of the United States. If China were free of provocation outweighs the costs of not having freely to have unmonitored use of these waters, they would be able to traversable international waters. traverse the South China Sea and into the Pacific mostly unde- tected. Two years ago, China deployed their Jin-Class ballistic Not only is the South China Sea a vital body of water for global missile submarines, capable of carrying 12 JL-2 nuclear missiles. 8 Even if China’s primary objective is economic control, the ability trade and commerce, but also as this battle for control contin- ues, light is being shed on the bigger security threats that are not to move their submarines with impunity is a direct consequence immediately apparent. Despite this small victory of getting legal of tight control of these waters. The implication that China could covertly position nuclear equipped submarines within backing from a multilateral institution such as the UN against these controversial China claims, there is still a great amount of stri H[HوTܙ\[HوܙX]X\]Hۘ\ܚHۙH[ܙ\X\HYYHو]Y][ۈYH[]Y]\˂[XۛZXYوH\[Y\[HY[ۋ