I've blogged before about the increasing tensions between China and other nations (most recently, the Philippines) over the South China Sea. The Economist has a nice overview of the issues. Notable points:
Tensions in the sea have mounted this year, especially between China and the Philippines on the one hand, and between China and the Vietnam on the other. Although there has not been a serious armed clash in the sea since 1988, and none is likely now, there are worries that in the current climate some low-level confrontation might escalate by accident.
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That the American approach is broadly appreciated in the region, however, must give China pause. There are two reasons for the welcome to America. The first is the perception that China has become more strident and more of a bully in asserting its claims.
The second is that it remains unclear what those claims are based on. China couches many of its statements by reference to the islands, islets and rocks over which it claims sovereignty, and their associated waters, as if it were following UNCLOS. But it has not renounced the “nine-dashed line” (see map) which it says gives it historic rights over virtually the entire sea. China’s neighbours have reason to worry China sees their sea as its lake.