China is forging ahead with reclamation projects on at least seven tiny but hotly contested features in the South China Sea, posing what could be a major challenge in the Philippines’ international arbitration case against China. Surveys of the disputed outcroppings will be key.
Since the beginning of the year, various satellite images of Chinese reclamation work in the Spratly Islands have shown shoals and reefs turning into artificial islands. Major harbors that can dock military ships are nearly completed. So are several airstrips and at least three multistory buildings where bare outposts once stood.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said at a forum in Manila Thursday his government has protested what he calls “the massive reclamation activities” of China.
“The alteration of these features [is] plainly intended to change the character, status and maritime entitlements of the said features, which prejudice the arbitration and undermine work of the arbitral tribunal to hear and objectively decide the case,” said del Rosario.