The United States has accused China of “unprecedented land reclamation,”. They are claiming that China is “creating a great wall of sand” over four square kilometers wide in the disputed area in the South China Sea. This action by China has led to the questioning of China’s territorial intentions.
US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris Jr, said at a naval conference in Australia that China has been “pumping sand on to live coral reefs — some of them submerged — and paving over them with concrete. China has now created over 4 square kilometers (1.5 square miles) of artificial landmass.”
“But what’s really drawing a lot of concern in the here and now is the unprecedented land reclamation currently being conducted by China,” he added.
Harris said that the region is known for its exotic and beautiful natural islands, but “in sharp contrast, China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months.” (CoNN: Isn’t the Navy also responsible for destroying hundreds of whales due to their sonar testing? Ah, but that’s for national defense, move along now)
In the Spratly group of islands, reefs have been turned into artificial islands with buildings, wharves and runways. Though China claims an extensive part of the sea, it still has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and Vietnam. Last month, Vietnam and the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest with Beijing.
The US military and others are concerned about this mainly because they think it could potentially be used for military and other facilities to strengthen China’s territorial claims.
“How China proceeds will be a key indicator of whether the region is heading toward confrontation or cooperation,” Harris said.
It is evident that Australia too is worried about this. Last year, it agreed with Japan to increase military cooperation and exercises as a hedge against China’s fast-growing military potential. To be fair, encirclement was always on the books.
The US called all claimants to comply with the 2002 China-ASEAN Declaration of Conduct, in which the parties committed to “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”
China, on the other hand, believes that its territorial claims have a historical basis and are justified. It doesn’t want the US to poke its nose in their business.
Meanwhile, the US continues to strengthen its military presence in the regions of concern. US navy fleet commander Harris said that the United States is currently preparing to shift 60 percent of its fleet to the Pacific by 2020.
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