Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Geopolitical Implications of the Sino-Japanese East China Sea Dispute for the U.S

Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Geopolitical Implications of the Sino-Japanese East China Sea Dispute for the U.S

Article excerpt


Much attention has been given to the (SCS) as a potential source of international conflict due to its potentially large mineral resources, its location adjacent to significant international trade routes like the Straits of Malacca, and China's aggressively claiming portions of this body of water by building and weaponizing islands in the SCS.1 The (ECS) is of comparable international economic, political, and strategic significance to the SCS because activities in its waters and airspace affect the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan while serving must be a key focal point of the U.S. Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAMGC) which must be augmented with requisite funding, force augmentation, equipment, and strategic doctrine. Such concrete support is critical if the U.S. and its allies must engage and triumph in a military conflict with China.2

The (ECS) is an economically and strategically important body of water in the Western Pacific Ocean. With maritime geospatial coverage consisting of approximately 482,000 square miles, it is bordered by the Yellow Sea to the north, the SCS and Taiwan to the south, Japan's Ryukyu and Kyushu islands to the east, and China's mainland to the west including the major city of Shanghai. China, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. all have acute geopolitical interests in these waters which are currently administered by Japan. Territories of particular concern are a series of islands called the Senkaku Islands by Japan, Diaoyu Islands by China, and Diaoyutai Islands by Taiwan which are part of the Ryukyu island chain administered by Japan. These eight uninhabited islands (the largest being two miles long and less than a mile wide) are barren, but sovereignty over them is a matter of acute geopolitical contention between these countries under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the ECS contains nearly 200 million barrels of oil in proven and probable reserves and 1-2 trillion cubic feet of proved and probable natural gas reserves. If estimates of these oil reserves are true and they can be extracted, China would no longer have to import them from the Persian Gulf region or SCS consequently diminishing the chances of its energy supply lines to potential disruption. Tides in this region during December 2015 ranged from -0.1 feet to 6.6 feet indicating an area affected by monsoonal winds, typhoons, strong storms, and local winds, and a growing population which can significantly influence regional aviation, meteorological, and shipping activity.3

During 2013 trade between China and Japan was $182.11 billion and trade between Japan and China was $129.88 billion, trade between China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the U.S. which is primarily seaborne and can cross through the ECS in 2015 was $598.1 billion between China and the U.S., $193.6 billion between Japan and the U.S., $115.3 billion between South Korea and the U.S., and $66.6 billion between Taiwan and the U.S. representing a cumulative total of $973.6 billion and 35.1% of U.S. international trade in 2015 with these four countries being among the top 9 U.S. trading partners. Besides ports in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in proximity to the ECS, major Chinese ports whose merchandise is carried from locations adjacent to the ECS though the ECS to global markets include Dalian, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Ningbo, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenzen, and Tianjin which currently rank among eight of the world's 14 busiest ports in container rankings according to the World Shipping Council.4

Historical Background

Both China and Japan have significant historical claims to ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Beijing claims that the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) regarded the islands as part of its maritime territory and included them on maps. China also claims the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) placed these islands under Taiwan's jurisdiction. …

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