China Asserts Its Territorial Claims in South China Sea - USATODAY.com
Chinese travel agent Ou Nanxi has never seen such gorgeous beaches like those found on the trial cruise she took to the uninhabited islets of the southern Paracel Islands.
“There were white coral beaches and islands; the sea shone even bluer than the sky,” Ou says.
Ou is confident Chinese tourists will clamor to book cruises to the islands in the South China Sea as soon as the government allows it: “It’s so beautiful there, and this is Chinese territory.”
Vietnam disagrees, having been forced off the island chain in 1974 by the People’s Liberation Army. Today, the Paracels are among 200 islands, coral outcrops and banks whose ownership and resources China says are its alone to exploit.
The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam all claim ownership of the islands nearest them. But China claims sovereignty over all — nearly 1.2 million square miles that includes territory hundreds of miles from its mainland shore.
China recently said it will begin developing tourism on the Paracels. The announcement was one of several instances in which China is starting to assert sweeping claims over most of the South China Sea’s islands, fishing grounds and unexplored deposits of oil and natural gas.
Philippine navy troops inspect a Chinese fishing vessel loaded giant clam shells after it was intercepted off Scarborough Shoal.
A clash between East and West is perhaps unavoidable, given that the United States says it will protect freedom of navigation and commerce for all Asian nations in what is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, some experts say.
“China has boxed itself in,” says Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, North East Asia project director for the International Crisis Group.