As China flexes its muscles over territorial claims in the South and East China Seas, concerns are rising that friction between Beijing and its neighbors will lead to military conflict.
According to a new survey by Pew Research Center, majorities in eight of 11 Asian countries surveyed are “very concerned” about a possible military confrontation with Beijing, including 93 percent of Filipinos, 85 percent of Japanese, 84 percent of Vietnamese and 83 percent of South Koreans. In China itself, over 60 percent are concerned about a possible conflict.
“On the one hand people want close ties with China economically, but when it comes to the security realm, China’s growing assertiveness [and] its rising military strength drive pretty strong concerns in Asia,” Richard Wike, director of Global Attitudes Research at Pew Research Center told CNBC on Tuesday.
China has been embroiled in territorial disputes with its neighbors for centuries, but its growing assertiveness about its rights in the region has escalated tensions in the past year.
China lays claim to Japanese-administered islets in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. It also claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
The South China Sea is home to rich fishing grounds and untapped seams of oil and natural gas. It’s also a busy sea lane, with half the world’s trade and 80 percent of crude oil supplies passing through its waters.
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