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According to Wong, the South China Sea issue is a complicated matter concerning a number of countries. The disputes generally fall into three categories: territorial disputes over islands, the demarcation of the sea and navigation in the sea. Clashes between China and Viet Nam, the Philippines and Malaysia belong to the first two categories, whereas the third category involves the United States and Japan. The South China Sea Islands consist of over 250 around 1-km² islands, atolls, cays, shoals, reefs, and sandbars in the South China Sea, most of which have no indigenous people, many of which are naturally under water at high tide, some of which are permanently submerged. According to studies made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines, the South China Seas body of water holds one third of the entire world's marine biodiversity, thereby making it a very important area for the ecosystem. However the fish stocks in the area are depleted, and countries are using fishing bans as a means of asserting their sovereignty claims. The area is also one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Nearly half of the world’s commercial shipping uses the South China Sea, and the US depends on it to pass military vessels. This traffic is three times greater than that passing through the Suez Canal and five times more than the Panama Canal.
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Written by Funeka Yazini April
Research Specialist: Democracy and Governance – AISA