Valery Timoshenko – Territorial disputes involving China and the United States’ position

Recently United States pay close attention to the issues of territorial claims in the Asia-Pacific region. In July 2009, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. Senate held hearings on the issue of territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific region and the United States’ role in the resolution of these disputes. The hearing was led by Senator Jim Webb. An expert group has been established comprising representatives of the U.S. administration, in particular Assistant Secretary S. Marco and the Assistant Secretary of Defense R. Sher, as well as the scientific community, such as a professor at the Naval College, USA P. Dutton, a senior researcher at the Institute for the Study of U.S. businesses D. Blumenthal and the representative of the Henry L. Stimson P. Cronin. In the reports prepared by the special expert group focused on China, its expansionist policy in the region, its territorial claims to the neighbors. According to D. Webb the object of the hearing was not to “beat up China”, but in reality most attention was paid to this country.

China has the largest number of territorial disputes with its neighbors. It lays claim to the Senkaku Islands, Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands. Despite the fact that Japan controls the Senkaku Islands since the end of World War II and its sovereignty over them is recognized by other countries, including the U.S., China requires recognition of its sovereignty over the islands. In addition, the Communist Party of China has never officially recognized the sovereignty of Japan over the Ryukyu archipelago, which includes Okinawa. In the South China Sea unresolved territorial disputes continue between China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei. The claims of the sides are presented mainly in the Spratly Islands, consisting of 21 islands, 50 submerged atoll and 28 partially submerged reefs. The continental shelf of the islands covers 340,000 square miles. In addition, China and Vietnam waged a tough fight over Paracel Islands are south of Hainan Island.

In the American experts territorial disputes with China are the most dangerous, as China’s leaders are constantly shown a willingness to apply force to resolve these disputes.

In fact, the U.S. is not so much concerned about the possible military conflicts as the military, diplomatic and economic activity of China, not only in the Asia-Pacific region but all around the world. China’s development has changed the regional economic balance, and allowed to expand its political influence. According to George Webb, concern about the expansion of China expressed of almost all East Asian countries, the leaders from Burma to Vietnam. The report, prepared byD. Blumenthal, noted that over the past ten years, China has deployed in the region of 38 new diesel and nuclear submarines, bought four modern class destroyers in Russia in addition to ten new Chinese-made destroyers. Besides, China has developed a network of ballistic missiles of ground-based basing for destruction of naval targets. Such kind of a buildup of naval forces is considered to be an unprecedented since the end of the “cold war” and cannot be connected with the need to protect their own territory.

China’s expansion, in the opinion of Americans, creating obstacles to the “free and fair economic development” in the region, increases the risks associated with the production of fish, limit the prospects of natural resources and “openly threatens U.S. oil companies operating in the South China Sea” .

The reasons for this expansion of China to Americans is seen in economic growth and China’s interest in strengthening its geo-strategic position. Economic growth requires more maintenance of the country’s energy supply. Therefore, China, grabs every opportunity to be less dependent on energy supplies. Major oil and gas reserves are found in the Spratlys, and the stocks of oil and gas offshore the Senkaku Islands, according to the Chinese oil companies are estimated respectively at 160 billion barrels and 250 trillion cubic feet. Additional concern of China cause oil supply from the Middle East. The Chinese are not satisfied with the role to ensure the uninterrupted supply of oil that have conferred on the United States of America. They are looking for oil resources closer to their own continent. The development of these resources involves monitoring the Chinese coast up to the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and the South China Sea. And the main obstacle to the implementation of this control is the United States of America. Since the times of the “cold war” in the region remained powerful naval grouping U.S. and Chinese believe that now that the force is directed against them. Objectively speaking, China is now interested in driving Americans away from its coast. The forced landing of a U.S. spy plane on Hainan in 2001, and the recent harassment of Chinese warships of the American Destroyer “Impekable” speak about the seriousness of such intentions..

Americans also are concerned about the construction of a new naval base at Hainan Island. The proximity to the Strait of Malacca poses a threat to uninterrupted supply in the region, Washington’s main allies – Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. All this has seriously affected the United States. At a hearing of the U.S. Senate was directly stated that China’s behavior “directly threatens the legitimate interests of the United States in Southeast Asia,” including “freedom of navigation, access to oil and gas fields, cooperation in developing the resources of the seabed”, and it also poses a threat to regional peace and stability, economic development, and even a “food security”.

At present, as noted by some participants of the debate in the Senate, the United States is the only world power able to response to the aggressive and harassing actions of China. But in what form should this response be, opinions are divided. Senator James Webb offers fully strengthen the naval forces. “If the United States wants to remain a nation of sea, – he wrote – our national leaders have the opportunity to do so. Our diplomatic corps and our armed forces, especially our Navy should have the resources necessary to protect American interests and the interests of our allies “. Others offer broaden regional allies and to include countries interests of whose are also threatened by China, especially India and Vietnam. An official point of view about the relation to the USA to the territorial disputes in Asia expressed State Department spokesman Scot Marciel, “The United States have a policy of neutrality in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but want China to clarify the nature of its territorial claims”.

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