South and East China Seas: Hydrocarbon resources, alone, are not a significant threat to regional stability

Peace and Freedom

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By Emily Meierding
New America
Time Magazine

The risk of regional ‘resource wars’ has been overstated

A year ago last month, China moved its oil drilling rig, the HD-981, into waters around the Paracel Islands. China’s exploratory drilling provoked a confrontation with Vietnam, which also claims the area. Both countries deployed coast guard vessels and fishing fleets to the drilling site. Ships collided and turned water cannons on each other, sinking a fishing boat. In Vietnam, the incident sparked popular protests; more than 20 people were killed.

The rig withdrew in July, after two months of drilling. But it left an unresolved question in its wake: Is competition over the South China Sea’s oil and natural gas resources a threat to regional security? This question resonates across the region, as the Paracel Islands are not the only area where hydrocarbon exploration could lead to clashes. In addition to…

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