Tourism to the Paracels is important as "it is a declaration of sovereignty over the islands ... that have been a part of Chinese territory since ancient times", the official added.The tourism angle has been appreciated for its sovereignty aspects by other nations as well. Layang-Layang Island in the South China Sea was built up for the Malaysian military and is now a world-famous dive site. It helps sustain Malaysia's claim to certain regions of the South China Sea (also claimed by China). Of course, Taiwan has designated the Dongsha a national park, upgrading its sovereignty over the area.
This news was overshadowed by the widely-reported standoff between Chinese gunboats and a Philippines cutter yesterday....
The two navies engaged each other after the Philippine vessel—a former Coast Guard cutter provided by the U.S. Navy—attempted to arrest the crew of several Chinese fishing boats who were anchored at Scarborough Shoal, off the Philippines' northwest coast but which is also claimed by China. The Philippine government said Chinese surveillance vessels intervened to prevent any arrests, leading to the standoff, and that Filipino sailors who inspected the Chinese vessels on Tuesday found illegally collected corals and live sharks in one of the fishing boats.US policy is very interesting. In the case of Taiwan authorities here have heard nothing but abuse from American officials about "provoking" China -- Beijing won a huge victory there -- but Manila can kick as much sand in the face of the Chinese giant as it likes and from the US comes only....silence. This suggests that Philippines has US approval for what it is doing. Indeed the two nations are slated to begin military exercises this week. By prolonging the stalemate, US signals and satellite intelligence analysts can get a good picture of Beijing's communications with its forces in the South China Sea, its control over its various weapons systems, as well as snapshots of its logistical preparations.
The Philippines has deployed a second ship to the area to back up the first. Both sides appear to be moving toward a "diplomatic solution."
The importance of the South China Sea cannot be overestimated. It contains massive oil and gas deposits, the fourth largest reserve on earth according to PRC estimates. The PRC routinely threatens other nations for conducting geological surveys in the area. It also contains a third of the world's marine biodiversity along with more than 10% of the world fish catch. Much of the world’s oil and other products shipped to Asia passes through the South China Sea, roughly a third of the world's total shipping.
Note the careful neutrality of the news reports, which go out of their way to make a balance between Chinese and Philippine claims by merely reporting that the claims exist (with no thought to the history, which goes without saying). Recall the relentless pro-Beijing slant of the media when discussing China's desire to annex Taiwan. *sigh*
REF: Wiki for Scarborough Shoal
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