The Maritime Fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific: Indonesia and Malaysia Respond to China’s Creeping Expansion in the South China Sea

Chinese Maritime Studies Institute – China now is attempting to expand its control to the southernmost extent of its nine-dash-line claim in the South China Sea, in waters ever closer to Indonesian and Malaysian shores. This area of the South China Sea, spanning from Indonesia’s Natuna Islands to the South Luconia Shoals, has greater strategic importance than the Spratly or Paracel Island chains farther to the north. Whereas the Spratlys have for centuries been regarded as “dangerous ground” and commercial mariners have avoided them, the vital sea lines of communication (SLOCs) connecting the Pacific and Indian Oceans flow through this part of the southern South China Sea. Therefore, these areas are far more vital to international commerce and navigation than the dangerous grounds closer to China’s Spratly Islands outposts.