Chinese navy soldiers guard on Navy Battleship of Wenzhou at Qingdao Port on April 22, 2009 in Qingdao of Shandong Province, China.
In a major strike against China, a Hague-based international tribunal has found that Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea have no legal merit.
The ruling comes after a period of sustained rising tensions throughout the region — particularly between Vietnam and the Philippines on one hand and China on the other.
But even with the recent ruling, China is unlikely to give up its claims to the region. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said Beijing “neither accepts nor recognizes” the ruling.
Simply put, the South China Sea is too valuable for China to give up control of without a fight.
According to author and the chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor, Robert D. Kaplan, “the South China Sea functions as the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans — the mass of connective economic tissue where global sea routes coalesce.”
“More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide,” Kaplan wrote in “Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific.”
Meanwhile, the region is home to $5 trillion in annual global trade. To that end, by 2030, the entire region is predicted to be nothing more than a “Chinese lake.”
Business Insider has selected seven charts that explain why the South China Sea is so valuable.
Here’s a look at the region and the disputed areas. The primary issue at the heart of the South China Sea dispute is the overlapping of several “Exclusive Economic Zones” of each country.
Brunei, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines claim various parts of land in the Spratly Islands — one of the island chains in dispute in the South China Sea.
China claims the lions share of the South China Sea with its self proclaimed “nine dash line” shown below in red.
Mega money passes through these waters. The South China Sea is home to $5 trillion in annual global trade. The sea also function as the main trade route for unfinished goods between ASEAN (Southeast Asia), Japan, and China.
“The South China Sea has proven oil reserves of seven billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas … If Chinese calculations are correct, then these waters could contain more oil than any area of the globe except Saudi Arabia. Some have called the South China Sea ‘the second Persian Gulf.'”
Source: Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific“
Here’s a look at the US assets and personnel deployed in Hawaii, Alaska, and Guam, devoted to the safety and security of the region.
Several countries have also constructed aircraft capabilities in the region, but China has the most and the longest airstrips.