With the ports of at one end and Hong Kong-Macau at the other, the South China Sea is one of the most heavily shipped seas in the world. The South China Sea is one of the most important economic and environmental regions in the world. More than half of the world's fishing vessels are in the South China Sea, and millions of people depend on these waters for their food and livelihoods. China has fully militarized at least three of several it built in the disputed South China Sea, arming them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment and fighter jets in an increasingly aggressive move that threatens all nations operating nearby, a top military commander. In the South China Sea, we seek to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes. China moved to start creating the artificial islands in the South China Sea in 2014, building them on top of rocks or reefs which were close to the water's surface at high tide. Dredging ships were used to scoop up the sea floor to build up the islands on top of the rocks. China has fully militarized at least three islands with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems.Mr. President, China has claimed “” in areas that are beyond 200 M from its mainland coasts, or any land feature over which it claims , and within 200 M of the coasts of the Philippines' main islands, and exploited the resources in these areas while preventing the Philippines from doing so. Thousands of ships pass through the South China Sea every day,and more than half the world's tonnage of shipping passes throughthe great gateways to the sea, the straits of Malacca, Lombok, andSunda. A quarter of the world's oil (15 million barrels) slips dailyinto the South China Sea through the narrow neck of the Straitof Malacca alone.But the nations surrounding the South China Sea have realizedthat there is much more to this sea than just a conduit. Vastamounts of oil and gas lie as yet untapped under the sea, especiallyaround the hundreds of small, mostly uninhabited, islets knownas the Spratlys. China and both claim much of the oceanas their own, which of course, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia,Indonesia, and Thailand strongly . There have only beena few minor armed conflicts so far but there are frequent bristlingencounters between of the competing nations. TheAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has negotiatedrules for developing the 's resources jointly, and China, too,has agreed to plans to share the benefits, without renouncing itsclaims to sovereignty.As these vigorous international disputes go on, protection of theSouth China Sea's rich wildlife has not always been high on thelist of priorities. Many people who live around the shores are poor,and the seemingly abundant marine life living among the sea'swealth of reefs – from sea turtles…

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