Could The South China Sea Dispute Lead Into World War III?

Tensions are high with the South China Sea dispute threatening a breakdown in U.S.-China relations. Many fear that the dispute could lead into a full-fledged war, possibly World War III, if a diplomatic solution cannot be reached.

For the time being, it seems neither the United States nor China is willing to back down from their positions in the South China Sea dispute. Even more worrying, the rhetoric coming out of Beijing is that they are prepared for military conflict should the United States continue operations in the South China Sea.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued a stern warning to the U.S. to essentially cease and desist further exploration into the South China Sea.

“China’s will to maintain sovereignty and territorial integrity is as solid as a rock. We urge the U.S. to make corrections, keep their rationality and stop any provocative actions.”

However, the United States are unlikely to budge. Back in 2012, the U.S. made it clear that they are determined to preserve the region’s neutrality.

“We are concerned by the increase in tensions in the South China Sea and are monitoring the situation closely. Recent developments include an uptick in confrontational rhetoric, disagreements over resource exploitation, coercive economic actions, and the incidents around the Scarborough Reef, including the use of barriers to deny access.”

There are reasons why many believe the South China Sea dispute could spell trouble for the international community. States such as Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, The Philippines, Japan and Australia depend on U.S. assistance within that region, while Russia has already shown that they are willing to back their Chinese neighbors. The conflict could explode into World War III.

The South China Sea is an important source of income for both China, the region, and much of the wider international community. The Sea hosts important transportation route that connects East Asia with the Middle East and Europe.

The South China Sea is 3 million square kilometers (1.16 million square miles) and also holds a considerable amount of oil and gas deposits, enough to power China for three years. The U.S., whose involvement in the region is to ensure neutrality, has not taken sides with neither China nor the rivaling states complaining about China’s monopoly over the area.

The South China Sea is an important part of the East Asia economy and as such the U.S., the world hegemony, is determined to ensure that all parties are not prohibited from the economic riches that the sea provides.

Can the South China Sea dispute push the international community into World War III?

[Photo by Feng Li / Getty Images]