Asian Insider

Four flashpoints in Asia to watch as US, China tensions rise

WASHINGTON - Tensions between the US and China can ignite four simmering disputes - in the South and East China Seas, the Taiwan Strait and the Korean peninsula.

How did these flashpoints emerge and how can they be managed?

Asian Insider reports.

US-China tensions threaten Asia's peace

The rising tensions between the United States and China threaten Asia's peace and must be carefully managed to keep long-running flashpoints in the region from igniting into open conflict, said experts.

But the superpower rivalry is increasing the risk of military conflict between them in the Asia-Pacific, the International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote in a report on Friday (May 20) about strengthening US-China crisis management.

Making matters worse, their competition has become increasingly militarised in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. Their diplomatic interaction has also dwindled in recent years, raising the risk of each superpower misjudging the other's intentions in an accidental military collision, said the report.

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Taiwan Strait: Cross-strait clash could draw others into the fray

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China and Taiwan have been de facto separate political entities since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

Today, the central issue in tensions between the two sides is the political status of Taiwan.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out using military force to unite with it.

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Korean peninsula: Uneasy status quo, but sparks fly when North tests missiles

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For decades, North Korea has resisted calls to end its nuclear programme, which it parlays into security reassurances and aid.

Relations between North and South Korea, which are technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, see-saw between belligerence and detente, with ramifications for the wider security situation in North-east Asia.

Seoul's new conservative government has a hard-line approach towards North Korea and wants complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation, unlike the previous liberal government that preferred detente and wanted eventual reunification.

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South China Sea: Home to oil, gas reserves and rich fishing grounds

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The South China Sea is home to key commercial shipping lanes and valuable oil and gas reserves, as well as rich fishing grounds.

It is the focus of several territorial disputes between China, which claims the vast majority of the waters, and Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Since 2014, China has pressed its claims with increasing assertiveness, stepping up land reclamation and building military features.

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East China Sea: Isles near potentially huge oil, gas deposits

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The Diaoyu/Senkaku islands are a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea and claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan.

Japan has administered the islets for more than a century, calling them the Senkaku islands. In 1971, China began formally disputing Tokyo's claim over what it calls Diaoyu islands.

Taiwan also stakes its claim, naming the islands Diaoyutai.

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