By: Brian Evans
For years, the communist Chinese government has been trying to change the balance of power in the not only the world, but in the South China Sea. Up to date, the Chinese have failed to do so. However in recent years, they have been working to cleverly and illegally take control of the international waters by building artificial islands to compensate for their former failures.
Reports by the Pentagon indicate that the advantage of this new and strange type of deployment is relatively insignificant militarily during wartime, but its true value is psychological, as the Chinese believe that the strategically located manmade islands improves China’s international prestige as a rising international power militarily, especially as the Trump Administration has left them reeling, following their faltering ability to win the trade war with the United States. As a result, it has has left them grasping for power, as the Trump Administration appears to have them up against a wall.
Meanwhile, as China continues to build their massive military islands, in an effort to enforce its seizures of international maritime waters, other nations are concerned, and for good reasons. After all, maritime boundaries have long been used as a protective barrier against foreign invasions, and as China confiscates foreign nations own waters along their coastline, it has become a concern for each nations well-being.
One of the manmade islands can be seen below…
Satellite picture of China’s man-made island, November 2014 (Janes)
China has claimed the almost the entirety of the South China Sea, including International waters, and maritime waters that have historically belonged to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. China’s claims are rejected by almost everyone outside of China, and China refuses to submit them to the United Nations court, who would decide such matters. Likely, because they known that they would lose their claim in court. Instead, China is becoming increasingly belligerent militarily, annexing other nations’ waters, as they are militarizing the entirety of the South China Sea.
Interestingly, China’s claim of sovereignty over much of the South China Sea was already rejected in a July of 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. The Permanent Court of Arbitration is composed of a five-judge tribunal, where it issued a unanimous decision in favor of the Philippines on the majority of the claims it made against China’s takeover of the sea. In response, China quickly slammed the verdict and made it clear that they would not “accept or acknowledge” the tribunal’s ruling.
Since that court decision, China has continued to build new man-made islands, in which some are nearly two-miles long, and several hundred yards wide. Even now, China is continuing to build an additional five man-made islands, and claiming the sea and foreign territory, as Chinese territory. Waters that belong to Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Japan, are now being stolen by the Chinese government, in one of the largest and most massive territorial thefts of foreign waters.
Today, China has already created a new island nearly 2 miles long and several hundred yards wide. China is rapidly building five man-made islands from tiny reefs and shoals in the South China Sea. These islands will be used for military operations, including combat and support aircraft, when the inevitable day arrives that China’s seizures of other countries’ territories lead to a military confrontation that could spiral into war.
Defense One Radio revealed that with its reef expansion apparently finishing up, China is working to extend the reach of its military power, as they continue to outfit its manmade island outposts in the South China Sea with warplane hangars and weapons, the Pentagon said Tuesday in its annual assessment of Beijing’s military.
They said that their end goal is for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to base three regiments of warplanes there. They noted that Beijing had completed its reclamation work on the islands, and that think-tanks and news organizations have previously reported missile deployments and hangar construction on the islands. They said…
“China’s actions in the South China Sea in 2016, particularly its construction of airfields and other infrastructure on features in the Spratly Islands, enhanced China’s ability to control disputed areas in the South China Sea and caused regional concern over China’s longterm intentions.”
Currently, China has stopped the expansion of their man-made island construction. Instead, they are constructing military infrastructure and resources on the islands, as new airfields, runways, water and fuel storage, fighter hangers, communication facilities, fixed weapons positions, and administrative buildings.
Meanwhile, China’s three new island air bases in the Spratlys, and another in the Paracels will enable the Chinese military to operate over nearly all of the South China Sea, as well as increase their surveillance and spying capabilities over a broad and greatly expanded area.
Today, although the U.S., as well as the world have refused to recognize the Chinese claims, the United States have sent military ships and aircraft near the intrusive and illegally placed islands where the Chinese continue their endeavors. Now, in what the United States calls Freedom-of-Navigation Operations (FON), the program challenges territorial claims on the world’s oceans and airspace, where claims are being illegally perpetrated by the Chinese. In the meantime, the United States is taking the position that all nations must obey the international law of the sea, as it was codified in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, now the Trump Administration, as well as International community, will have to figure out how they will enforce that position. For now, that continues to remains unclear.