South China Sea

The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely the Nation of Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Republic of the Philippines, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Non-claimants want the South China Sea to remain as international waters, with the United States of America conducting “freedom of navigation” operations.

There are disputes concerning both the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime, areas near to sea, boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands. The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.

In recent years, China has built three airstrips on the contested Spratly Islands to extend its presence in disputed waters, and militarized Woody Island by deploying fighter jets, cruise missiles, and a radar system. China has warned its Southeast Asian neighbors against drilling for oil and gas in the contested region, which has disrupted other nations’ oil exploration and seismic survey activities. To challenge China’s claims in international waters, the United States has occasionally deployed destroyer ships on freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea to promote freedom of passage. Currently, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is hearing a claim brought by the Philippines against China, although Beijing refuses to accept the court’s authority.

Foreign ships which illegally fished in Indonesian waters were destroyed by the Indonesian government, many of them were Vietnamese ships. The Vietnamese government objected to the destruction of its own ships.

660 Vietnamese were apprehended in 2015 by Indonesia.

Indonesian waters were violated by Filipino fishermen.

On 19 March 2016, China coast guards prevented Indonesian authorities from detaining a Chinese fishing boat near the Natunas, although China accepts that the Natuna islands and seas around them belong to Indonesia. The crew were detained by Indonesia earlier, but their fishing boat was rammed free by a Chinese guards vessel while been towed. Indonesia summoned the Chinese ambassador in protest and China in turn demanded the release of the crew as they were in “traditional Chinese fishing grounds”. However, Indonesia refused to release the crew and accused China of sharply raising tensions in the region.

After they breached waters belonging to Thailand Vietnamese ships were snatched by Thailand.

Chinese and Vietnamese ships were detained by the Philippines.

For breaching waters of Malaysia, a Vietnamese ship was snatched by Malaysia.

Papua province waters belonging to Indonesia were breached by Vietnamese and Filipino fishermen who were arrested. In Riau’s vicinity in Indonesian waters Vietnamese ships were snatched by Indonesia.