Why is the South China Sea such a hotspot?

Why are there so many tensions over this body of water? What is the ‘nine-dash line’? And why does it matter to Australia?

By James Massola, The Sidney Morning Herald

AUGUST 3, 2020

Australia’s declaration that there is no legal basis for China’s claims to most of the South China Sea has been a long time coming.

For years, Canberra has carefully urged restraint, called on all states to respect the rules-based international order, insisted that it took no sides in the many competing territorial claims for the sea and urged respect for a 2016 international court ruling on the status of disputed features of the South China Sea.

But the decision to say there is no legal basis for China’s claim to 90 per cent of the islands and waters – which fall within the so-called “nine-dash line” – is part of a gradual change in Australia’s approach to the dispute, and one that is likely to be quietly welcomed by neighbouring countries in south-east Asia.

Australian Defence Force ships in the South China Sea during the Regional Presence Deployment 2020.
Australian Defence Force ships in the South China Sea during the Regional Presence Deployment 2020.CREDIT:ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY

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