Monday, August 15, 2011

Another war for oil?

Rapidly expanding oil exploration looks likely to escalate territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which is suspected of containing vast oil and natural gas resources. The expansion of oil exploration and drilling in the South China Sea has raised the stakes. Technological advances in oil and gas exploration and high energy prices have increased the interest in oil exploration. With deep water drilling on the rise, countries are able to drill for oil farther from shore than they previously could, making it economically crucial to control as much offshore territory as possible.

A Philippine company, Philex Mining Corp., announced Tuesday that it plans to drill at least two wells and expand its surveys in Reed Bank, one of the most contested areas of the South China Sea. China claims the sea in its entirety and several other countries in the region, including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan, claim parts of it. Within 24 hours of that announcement, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper People's Daily published an editorial arguing that Philippines' efforts at resolving territorial disputes "lack sincerity," citing construction by the Philippines' military on a disputed island. China also issued a veiled threat. "The behavior of the Philippines is the invasion of China's territory...Related parties should fully understand that China's principle and position do not mean that China will allow certain countries to freely encroach on China's territory. Any countries that made serious strategic misjudgment on this issue will certainly pay a high price."

Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University in China explains "It's a race. This sea is disputed, it has a resource, and whoever can get more of it can get more," If other countries are prospecting, "why wouldn't China?"

China's first aircraft carrier has begun its sea trials. China will now be in a strong position to defend its territorial waters and to foil vested interests that attempt to control the oil and gas-rich South China Sea. The aircraft carrier has given a message on the determination of China to defend its territorial waters. It is reportedly building two more aircraft-carriers (from scratch, this time). The Chinese PLA has also invested heavily in submarines. It is believed to be close to deploying the world's first "carrier-killer" ballistic missile, designed to sink aircraft carriers while they are manoeuvring at sea up to 1,500km (930 miles) offshore, and it is building its own stealth fighter aircraft.

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