Singapore has called on China to clarify its claims in the South China Sea following recent confrontations with Vietnam and the Philippines.
Singapore said China's "ambiguity" had caused international concern.
Singapore has no territorial claims in the area, but said it had an interest "in anything affecting freedom of navigation in international sea lanes".
Several Asian nations claim parts of the strategically important waters that may also contain oil and gas deposits.
Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia have competing claims to the Spratly Islands, while Beijing and Hanoi are in dispute over the Paracels.
And there you have the story in a nutshell (thanks, BBC!) Singapore has some vested interest in making sure it understands the boundaries that China is claiming, along with a handshake commitment with Brunei which occupies part of Borneo, a member of the Indonesian chain. Most important, I'm sure, is the freedom of Singapore's shipping to move through the South China Sea. That would be the prime gateway from Singapore to the world, including East Asia, but also the United States. The alternative is a more southerly route that would take ships thousands of miles off course.
This also means China can effectively choke off Singapore's vital import/export business. Along with Indonesia and Malaysia. Pretty important stuff to nations made up in large part of port cities.
We can assume that China's energy interests would quickly morph into other forms of dominance. Nations have a tendency to throw their weight around, as a cursory glance at 20th century American foreign policy would indicate. It would be no different for China, which has already shown signs of exerting imperialist tendencies.
For instance, Hong Kong is a direct competitor in shipping to Singapore. By restricting travel in the South China Sea, China would give Hong Kong a leg up in terms of pricing at the very least. Too, China could impose tariffs on boats passing through its territorial waters to access the open ocean. And there's not much anyone could do to stop them, since maritime treaties take a dim view of carving up sovereign waters.
This seems to be coming to a head. I wonder when the US will step in and speak up?