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China Next War
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CHINA'S NEXT WAR at South China Sea,?

    THE MOST LIKELY site for a war is probably the South China Sea, which China claims as its own 1,000-mile long pond. This huge sea, encompassing the Paracel and Spratly Island groups, covers major international shipping routes, including those that carry oil from the gulf to Japan. The area is also claimed in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines.

    China and Vietnam have fought naval battles in the area in 1974 and 1988, and the danger of a more decisive conflict may be growing for two reasons. First, some experts believe that there are extensive oil and natural gas deposits in the area, enhancing its appeal. China itself has estimated that the South China Sea floor contains 105 billion barrels of oil, an extravagant guess that it has since backed away from. But even vague hopes that the area is so bountiful will encourage Beijing to use force to control the sea. Second, China has always regarded the area as its own, but it is only now gaining the ability to enforce its view. The Chinese armed forces have extended a landing strip on Woody Island, the largest of the Paracels, so that it is now 2,600 meters long, thus creating a staging ground for any conflict.
    More ominously, China last year awarded exploration rights for a disputed part of the sea--an area that Vietnam insists is part of its continental shelf--to Crestone Energy Corporation, an American oil company. The head of the company told me he was promised the full backing of the Chinese navy in exploring the area...

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From "The Rise of China", N. D. Kristof