The South China Sea and Great Power Politics: Implications for U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations

Issue Brief
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The South China Sea and Great Power Politics: Implications for U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations

By Yeh-chung Lu, Associate Professor, Department of Diplomacy, National Chengchi University - East Asia Program Visiting Fellow

Maritime security has become a salient issue since 2010, as disputed sovereignty and resource claims in the Asia Pacific region have escalated. In 2010, when the South China Sea disputes became a more prominent issue in U.S.-China relations, many scholars and policy analysts reached the tentative conclusion that the risk of conflict between the two giants was growing. Claimants such as Vietnam and the Philippines also strongly expressed their positions. In the East China Sea, the sovereignty issue over the Diaoyu Islands (Senkakus to the Japanese) has become particularly sharp since September 2012, when Japan “nationalized” three of the islands. In November 2013, China unilaterally declared the establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, including the area of the Diaoyu Islands, further complicating the situation. Domestic political considerations and nationalism within each of the claimants involved are narrowing the opportunities for cooperation and peaceful resolution.