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Tensions in territorial disputes

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 19 July 2012

Technological advances in drilling and extraction of undersea oil and gas has opened up vast new areas of the earth to exploration for natural resources.

The huge gas reserves of Australia's North-West Shelf is one example of the scale of potential developments around the world.

This has been of enormous benefit not only to individual nations but also to the global economy from the large increases in energy supply.


However, it has also contributed to tensions in many parts of the world where territorial disputes have taken on a greater significance than previous claims over fishing rights for example.

Three of the most contentious claims are in relation to islands in the South China Sea, the Falkland Islands and Cyprus.

Perhaps the most complex and heated of these disputes is the South China Sea where six nations lay claim to part or all of the Parcel island and Spratly island chains.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have competing and overlapping claims in the region.

Tensions heightened in 2009 when China submitted a territorial claim to the United Nations based on a map with dotted lines that seems to infer a claim over most of the South China Sea.

In recent months there have been subsequent naval skirmishes and clashes involving fishing vessels in the seas around the disputed islands.


China has been accused by the other nations of aggressive and bullying behaviour in its discussions and of seeking to isolate each nation by insisting on individual negotiations.

A recent meeting of ASEAN nations failed to agree on an official statement due to differences of how best to approach the issue.

In recent days, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has embarked on what is being described as an emergency round of visits to the nations involved in the dispute, in an effort to mediate between them.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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