Asia Arms Race Heats Up Over South China Sea

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As China expands its influence in the disputed South China Sea, an arms race has developed among other nations with claims in the area.

China claims most of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea as its territory. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the waterway. The sea is rich in fisheries and is thought to hold valuable resources such as oil and natural gas.

Since 2010, China has stepped up its military activities in the South China Sea. It has patrolled with coast guard ships and sent its aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, to carry out military drills.

Construction is shown on Fiery Cross Reef, in the Spratly Islands, the disputed South China Sea in this March 9, 2017, satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Construction is shown on Fiery Cross Reef, in the Spratly Islands, the disputed South China Sea in this March 9, 2017, satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
China has also deployed oil rigs and created artificial islands in the disputed sea. Satellite images appear to show the country has also constructed major military facilities on some of the islands. Beijing has defended its activities in the South China Sea. Security experts believe Chinese navy and coast guard expansion will continue.

According to a report by global defense publication IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, China’s defense budget is estimated to nearly double in 2020 from 2010 levels. The report said that by 2020, China’s military budget is expected to reach $233 billion.

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