The Scarborough Islands dispute began when China blocked a Filipino warship from arresting Chinese fishermen in the area, a group of islands and reefs about 140 miles from the Philippines shoreline. Manila requested to take the issue to international court last week. Beijing refused, maintaining that the area is an indisputable part of Chinese territory.
Scarborough Shoal is a classic case of a territorial sovereignty dispute. The Philippines asserts that it has exercised effective occupation and effective jurisdiction over the Shoal since independence in 1946. To reinforce this claim it points out that it built a lighthouse on the Shoal in 1965 and that it has conducted surveys and research in the waters surrounding the Shoal.
China asserts that Scarborough Shoal and its adjacent waters have been Chinese territory for generations and that it discovered the Shoal, incorporated it into its territory and exercised jurisdiction over it. Further, China also claims that the Shoal is included in the Zhongsha Islands, one of the four archipelagoes inside China’s infamous nine-dashed line map to which it has historic claims to sovereignty. China also argues that the Philippines never disputed Chinese jurisdiction until 1979.