China’s Claims to South China Sea

China has long considered the South China Sea as one of the “near seas”, which form a core strategic interest.

Large reserves of oil and natural gas have been identified in the South China Sea, as well as the East China Sea. All the bordering nations believe they have an interest in these reserves.

“In total, the South China Sea has about 11 billion bbl of oil and 190 tcf of gas rated as proved or probable reserves. These levels are similar to the amount of proved oil reserves in Mexico and about two-thirds of the proved gas reserves in Europe, not including Russia1.”

There have been confrontations between China and its neighbors, such as with the Philippines, Viet Nam and Japan.

Quoting from a US Naval Institute (USNI) article2, “By 1947, the government of the Republic of China began to publish maps with a U-shaped series of lines in the South China Sea to delineate its maritime boundaries.”

China has said that each of these rocks, reefs and small islands are a part of China and that the 200 mile area surrounding them is part of China’s exclusive economic zone.

South China Sea and Key Straits
South China Sea and Key Straits

Here is what one of China’s largest English language newspapers, China Global Times, had to say about this on March 29 of this year.

“China will not be passive in sea disputes.”

“Chinese naval fleets recently conducted patrols on the South China Sea, reaching as far as Zengmu Reef, the southernmost part of Chinese territory. In an oath-taking ceremony on board Tuesday, the troops and officials vowed to safeguard China’s sovereignty.

“Earlier this month, a Chinese vessel fired two warning signal shells into the sky to prevent illegal fishing operations by Vietnamese fishermen. Both showed China’s firm determination to insist upon its stance amid the South China Sea disputes.”


“China … has changed its passive status.”

China has said the rim of islands, stretching from the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, north of Taiwan, southward, including the Philippines and Borneo, as forming the second maritime defensive perimeter, with the chain of islands stretching from Japan to Guam, Micronesia and Palau as the first.

The defensive perimeter of islands defines China’s strategy of Anti-Access and Area Denial, which is to deny access to the South China Sea by the United States Navy.

The commitments of the United States extend from South Korea, throughout all of South East Asia, including the Philippines and Australia, to the Mideast and the Mediterranean … not to mention, NATO, keeping the sea-lanes open, as well as the defense and security of home waters, from Alaska to the Atlantic.

The number of ships in the Navy does matter, with commitments around the world having to be met, first, by the Navy.

The 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean and the 7th Fleet in the Mideast can’t become the 0.6 and 0.7 Fleets.

This far flung sea power is in no position to have to include alternative fuels, such as biodiesel and bio jet fuel. Logistics require the ability to refuel U.S. Navy ships anywhere, and this requires replenishment capabilities where cargo space is limited.

Adding alternative fuels doubles, at a minimum, the need for separate cargo space, or the number of replenishment ships. It also has limitations in terms of availability. Bio-fuels may never be available in sufficient quantity to support the navy around the world under combat conditions. (See Dangerous and Foolhardy.)

Cutting CO2 emissions and avoiding the use of foreign oil, are the only benefits derived from using bio-fuels. Biofuels don’t improve range, don’t improve efficiency and aren’t less expensive … in fact, they can be over six times more expensive than conventional fuels.

Logistics dictate that bio-fuels shouldn’t be used in the navy, and the recent attempts by Mabus, the current Secretary of the Navy, is wrong headed, expensive and dangerous.

The rapid growth of the Chinese Navy and China’s claims to the South China Seas shouldn’t be ignored.


  1. From Gas and Oil Journal April, 4 2013.
  2. Additional information from USNI pertaining to the South China Sea. “In the 1930s China’s Republican government formed the Land and Water Maps Inspection Committee. … The committee reported in 1935 that in the South China Sea, China’s southernmost territorial feature is the James Bank, which sits about 50 nautical miles off the coast of Borneo, and that China’s maritime boundary should therefore extend south to 4 degrees North latitude.”

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