While the United States has always been a Pacific nation, a key factor in the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has been the ongoing cycle of tensions stemming from maritime disputes in the South and East China seas between China and other nations in the region. These have recently played out in places that heretofore have not been well known, such as Scarborough Reef and Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Prior to those recent flash points, tensions have been ongoing and persistent over other maritime features, such as the Spratly Islands in the central part of the South China Sea and the Paracel Islands in the northern part.
The Spratlys are claimed in their entirety by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and partially by Malaysia and the Philippines. The Paracels are claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, but are occupied exclusively by China.1 In light of the increased activity and associated tensions in the region relative to the numerous maritime disputes, four key points have emerged that provide a framework for a viable long-term resolution.