The United States Energy Information Administration has estimated that 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie below the seabed, including both proven and probable reserves. In addition, the map below highlights the trade route for oil. These explain the Chinese urge to dominate the region.
Vietnam is the western border of the South China Sea. Kaplan, writing in Asia’s Cauldron, reminds us that for nine centuries, “Vietnam’s nearly one thousand mile long coastline lay astride two great civilizations: those of India and China.” This area of perpetual conflict, repeatedly paying “the wages of being located on a civilizational fault line”, is once again the focus of geopolitical manoeuvring. Seven countries are disputing territorial claims to the seabed, and China has built a massive maritime facility on Hainan Island. This facility includes an underground submarine base capable of housing 20 nuclear submarines.