China exerting more control over the oil and natural gas-filled South China Sea area
On Friday, the U.S. state department released a statement criticizing China for establishing a military garrison in the Paracel Islands, which are located in the heavily disputed territory of the South China Sea.
The South China Sea is known to contain valuable mineral, oil, and natural gas resources, which makes claims by competing nations especially contentious. The Boston Herald estimates the seabed to hold more than 200 billion barrels of oil and nearly 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In recent years, China has increased its territorial claims in the area, which has increased tensions between China and its neighbors in Vietnam and the Philippines. Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia also lay claim to parts of the sea.
Currently, there exists a Joint Resource Development Area, where multiple nations can explore, and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), where a single nation has exploration rights.
In June, China gave foreign companies the opportunity to bid for exploration rights in an area of the Sea that lies within Vietnam’s EEZ.
Asia Times reports that as China continues to claim more rights in the area, it will face the possibility of a clash between Vietnamese or Philippine naval vessels.