The Spratly Islands encompass 425,000 sq KM of ocean, but less than 4 sq KM of land country. There are no natural dwellers on the islands. However, this country represents great economic potency for hydro-carbon development and piscaries.[ 1 ]A 1993/1994 estimation by the U.S. Geological Survey ( USGS ) , for illustration, estimated the sum sum of ascertained militias and undiscovered resources in the offshore basins of the South China Sea at 28 billion barrels of petroleum oil and up to 225 billion barrels of natural gas.[ 2 ]This outstanding potency for economic development, make the strategic competition in the country of all time more likely.

In recent History the islands that make up the Spratly concatenation have seen the business of uninhabited atolls, by many states with claims in the country. Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Phillipines, and the People ‘s Republic of China have all occupied islands, traveling every bit far as importing stone to construct them up and do them habitable. The Spratly islands have besides had a direct impact on the escalation of Arms purchases and advanced arm systems by states in the part. The purchase of power projection naval assets by Malaysia, Vietnam, and China is viewed by some analysts as a move to procure Spratly claims.[ 3 ]The most recent Chinese white paper on defence articulated that China would utilize it ‘s military power to forestall “ intervention and countering moves against China from the exterior ‘ and force per unit areas on China as it seeks to continue the rights and the involvements of its ‘vast districts and territorial seas. ”[ 4 ]

Presently the states of Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, China, and the Philippines have viing demands in the part. Get downing with the disposal of George W Bush and go oning under the Obama disposal, the United States has taken a more active Asiatic Role. Already in a strategic competition for China, American policy has high potency to come into struggle with China in the Spratly Islands. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ‘s recent visit to Vietnam, and spread outing defence US-Vietnamese defence cooperation has been greeted with unfastened contempt by the Chinese. With renewed US involvement in the part, the demand for a more consistent scheme is needed for managing this possible hot spot.


This paper is a policy proposal for the United States on the Spratly Islands difference. I will utilize this paper as a vehicle to specify the country of the Spratly Islands. The paper will supply a historical background to the viing claims in the part. The work will besides look at the recent addition in Strategic competition in the part, both between the United States and China and other regional states with current claims. The paper will besides demo the cogency of ASEAN attack to differences and promote the United States to follow the current strategic civilization of the part.

Research Question

The purpose of this research paper is to supply a proposal for proper US policy in relation to the territorial differences in the Spratly Islands. This will be done by reexamining old claims, looking at current policy among the affected histrions, and so suggesting a manner in front. To run into my purpose I must reply the inquiry: “ What function should the United States drama in the Spratly Island difference?

Literature Review


In Richard Fisher ‘s China ‘s Military Modernization: Building for Regional and Global Reach, published in 2010 provides a contempary position at China ‘s recent military modernisation. Fisher ‘s work takes a realists ‘ attack to China ‘s rise and views its addition in military capableness as a menacing development. He articulates that China ‘s addition in power projection capableness is straight affected by a desire to procure claims in the Spratly islands. Fisher makes a connexion between the tactical and operational betterments of the People ‘s Liberation Army and those betterment ‘s strategic employment. His work is related to the survey by demoing the connexion between territorial differences and an addition in Chinese military power.

Another beginning that articulates China ‘s strategic involvements in the Spratly island differences is Richard Cole ‘s 2010 work, “ The Great Wall at Sea, Second Edition: China ‘s Navy in the Twenty-first Century ” , In this book Cole shows that China has developed military capablenesss to protect its strategic involvements. He outlines China ‘s of all time turning dependance on natural resources from abroad

In Robert Kaplan ‘s Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the hereafter of American Power published in 2010, Kaplan advocates a more balanced and nuanced United states policy in SE Asia. Kaplan ab initio focuses on the huge strategic importance of the South China sea for planetary trade and resource geographic expedition. He contends that in the really near future the United States will come into direct strategic competition in the part and will necessitate a diplomatically nimble response to the challenges and chances in the part. I use Kaplan ‘s book to demo the huge strategic importance of the part and for utile advice on doing a policy proposal. Kaplan ‘s desire for a series of bi-lateral understandings with many states in the part promotes a diplomatic system of struggle turning away instead than declaration.

David Capuie and Paul Evans in 2002 wrote a study titiled The Asia-Pacific Security Lexicon. This book sets out to specify the linguistic communication and system of security diplomatic negotiations in the Asia-Pacific country. This book provides an outstanding definition of the “ ASEAN manner ” in security affairs. This work is related to my paper in that allows me to specify how best the United States can copy and use pre-exisiting Asiatic security and diplomatic solutions.

In seeking the Chinese position on the Spratly Islands difference I am utilizing the

Chi Kin Luo ‘s China ‘s Policy Towards Territorial Disputes: The Case of the South China Sea Islands. This book articulates the development of Chinese policy towards the Spratly Islands and provides both publicly proclaimed policy examples diplomatic understandings to explicate Chinese policy. The work is related to the survey by supplying a agency to specify Chinese policy desires and work to show a US response to the policies.


The Spratly Islands and China ‘s rise are major subjects in current Foreign Policy readings. In attempt to keep contempary relevancy a figure late published articles will be used on the survey.

From the Diplomat publication I have found Rukmani Gupta ‘s article, China ‘s Military Assurance. Gupta uses the recent release of the Chinese White paper on defence to look at a more self-asserting Chinese military scheme. The article acknowledges a certain grade of transparence in the Chinese White paper, but Gupta shows how the paper is a clear articulation of Chinese willingness to utilize military force in order to support territorial claims. Methodology

This research paper will concentrate on a reappraisal from the library resources available at the Maktab Turus Angkatan Tentura ( MTAT ) , Malayan Armed Forces Ministry of Defence, the University of Malaya, Malaysian and US based cyberspace booksellers ( ) . In add-on to this assorted diaries and articles sourced from online databases will besides be used. Besides, I have conducted interviews with the US Defense Attaches ( Army and Navy ) to Malaysia. The purpose of this paper is to look at current United states policy in the Spratly islands and place countries for betterment. In peculiar looking at how an Asiatic attack to the difference is in the best involvements of the United States, China, and the other regional claim holders.


Due to clip restraints and resource restrictions, research for this paper is based on a limited figure of secondary beginnings. Some books obtained are non the most recent editions nevertheless internet resources have been used where possible to guarantee thoughts gained from older editions have non been superseded.


This paper is divided into five chapters. Chapter one provides an debut and overview to the survey. It will include relevant background information and a reappraisal of the literature available in roll uping this research. The intro chapter will get down with what research inquiries I am trying to reply every bit good the thesis I am doing. Chapter one besides outlines the methodological analysis undertaken in order to obtain the needed information, and along with a literature reappraisal of the beginnings garnered via the research methodological analysis. Chapter one will farther explicate the significance of the survey.

In Chapter two I will supply the historical background to the historical differences in the part and how the viing claims have affected dealingss among the country ‘s states. The chapter will so sketch the strategic resources and how much potency for the assets exists in the country. I will besides demo how each state with a claim will merely hold an of all time increasing demand for the resources in the country. The chapter so outlines the importance of the sea-lanes in the country for strategic and economic grounds. Chapter two will stop with a decision.

Chapter three focal points on the strategic importance of the part to the United States and its policy to the issue. The chapter looks at current American policy in the part over the last two United States disposals. The chapter shows that the United States, through historical relationships and an germinating geo-political clime has a clear drift to play an active function in guaranting the country remains at peace. This chapter looks at the strategic assets the United States maintains in the part.

Traveling on to chapter four, the paper ‘s focal point goes towards the challenges faced by the United States. Looking at these challenges shows that the United States faces legion obstructions in progressing its strategic involvements in the part. The Chapter looks at the abjuration of U.S defence forces and the dominance of Chinese power, in peculiar the Chinese newfound capableness in regional denial systems. The chapter besides looks at the rise of Chinese soft power and monetarily goaded policies. The chapter besides outlines the viing strategic involvements of the parts states and looks at how the geo-political environment in the South China see is alterations.

In chapter five of the survey comes the decision. The decision besides includes the policy recommendations for the United States. The decision advocates the proper function for the United States and how shows a continuance of struggle turning away is economically good for all states involved in the difference.


Maj. Son ( Vietnam ) , “ Cox, what you do your Compar on?

Maj. Cox ( USA ) , “ I am making it on the South China Sea ”

Son, “ No, it is the Eastern Sea, South China Sea non the right name! ”

The many claims of the Spratly Islands

The inquiry of who owns the 400 stones and islands that compromise the Spratlys was exhaustively ignored until the mid 1970s. Factors that brought the issue frontward for states involved were the rise of nationalist political patterns, care of legitemacey, and a resource race.[ 5 ]Traveling into the 80 ‘s and 90s, most of the countires with differences tried to bolster their claims by busying the islands or set uping pilotage markers. Some of these markers are really submerged during high tide.[ 6 ]

Presently the figure of islands which are occupied by each state are as follows: Vietnam occupies 35 islets, Phillipnes 10, China 8, and Taiwan 1. Brunei occupies no islands.[ 7 ]The race to reenforce the calidity of the assorted claims increased the likelood of dischord and has resulted in multiple instances of military bullying and even armed struggle between China and Vietnam in 1988.

The Spratly islands difference started in the shutting yearss of World War II when the forces of Chiang Kai-Shek occupied the largest island in the group, Itu Aba, which had been used as a Nipponese pigboat base. Tawain has maintained a military fort there since 1946. It has used this island as a justification to claim all the islands in the part.

The Phillipnes was following to interest a claim. In 1956, a Filipino concern adult male claimed the islands under his ain name and so in 1976 Phillippine President Ferdinand Marcos established an official claim by renaming all islands east of the Spratlys. The Phillipnes claims about 60 islands in the Spratly part but non the Spratly Islands themselves.[ 8 ]

The South Vietnamese were the following state to get on the scence in August of 1956 by busying Spratly island itself. These forces were subsequently replaced by the winning military personnels of North Vietnam following the autumn of Saigon. From 1987 to 1992 Vietnam continued its business of more islands, islets, reefs, keies and some nameless shoals.[ 9 ]

Malaysia foremost expressed involvements in the islands in the 1970s but in 1979 made official claim by saying 3 islands and 4 stone groups were portion of its Continental shelf. Malaysia so occupied 4 islands military in the South China Sea, making a dive resort on one.

The little state of Brunei has besides asserted its ain claim in the country. It claims the Louisa Reef, which is occupied by Malaysia, since it is located inside Brunei ‘s fanciful 200 mile maritime sole economic zone. The legal premiss for confirming this Claim stems from the Continental shelf commissariats of the 1982 UN LOS convention.

The Chinese claim as advanced by Beijing is the most complex and comprehensive of all the claimants. China claims about the full South China Sea, based on historical usual that dates back to the Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC, when Chinese sailing masters and fisherman occupied and used the Spratly islands.[ 10 ]China has entered the difference in modern times in three distinguishable stages. During the 1950s, China laid claim to the Paracel Islands, to the North of Spratlys, finally prehending them by force from South Vietnam in 1974. Since so China has continued to up the ante in a series of progressively bold moves. China has continually rebuffed claims of ownership from other states. The most dramatic of these moves took topographic point in March of 1988, when China responded to a contigent of Vietmanese soldiers who tore down a Chinese flag on a freshly claimed shoal. This incident resulted in an armed clang between the two coutnries and resulted in the decease of 74 Vietmanese crewmans and the loss of three Vietnamese naval vass.[ 11 ]The immediate result of this incident was that China occupied six islands in concatenation. Prior to that clip, China had been unsuccessful in set uping a physical presence in the archipelago.

In 1992, China set in gesture a series of events that raised the degree of tensenesss one time once more. Traveling back to 1984, China ‘s section of State Oceanic Administration and other related sections, drafted a jurisprudence of territorial Waterss. This jurisprudence was non passed fo a figure of old ages but at the 24th session of the Standing Committee of the seventh People ‘s Congress in Februray of 1992, as the jurisprudence of Territorial Waters and their immediate countries.[ 12 ]This jurisprudence reiterates China ‘s soverginity over the Spratly Islands and environing countries. That is an country that encompasses virtually all of the South China Sea. China so occupied two reefs and deployed three pigboats to police its “ inland Waterss ” which caused major alarm among the adjacent states.[ 13 ]

China ‘s self-asserting diplomatic negotiations and military moves so injected new life into ASEAN and brought approximately corporate action from the regional orgaination. In 1992 ASEAN produced the Manila Declaration and energized the Asiatic Regional Forum as a corporate security agreement to barricade farther Chinese enlargement. In Feburary of 1995 there were a series of armed brushs between naval vass of China and the Phillippines at Mishcief Reed. These brushs culminated with the business of the Reef. This was the first clip since the terminal of the Cold War, that the PRC has taken district claimed by an ASEAN member. This incident increased international and regional attending to the on-going differences.

This cooperation was began under the leading of Indonesia in 1996. While Tawain and China are non members of ASEAN, that organic structure has become the primarly organic structure for arbitration in mention to issues affecting the South China Sea.