In 2018, China entered a new ‘phase’ in its militarization of the South China Sea, including the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea, says AMTI director Gregory Poling
MANILA, Philippines – The year 2018 saw China enter into a new phase in its militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea – the increased deployment of military vessels and equipment.
This is according to Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank based in Washington DC.
AMTI is the group that regularly publishes satellite images of the South China Sea.
Poling made this argument on December 7 at a forum organized by Stratbase and the Albert del Rosario Institute.
“The fact that by the end of last year (2017), we suddenly had effectively operational air and naval bases should be concerning. What should be more concerning is that 2018 has now become phase 3, which is deployments,” he said.
“Over the first 6 months of the year, certainly there was a steady, pretty rapid increase in the level of Chinese military deployments that was well covered in the press here and in Washington,” he continued.
In his presentation, he cited deployments of military planes and missiles to reefs in the Spratly Islands – including Subi Reef (Zamora Reef), Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef), and Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef).
These 3 reefs have been transformed into islands by China through reclamation.
They are located in the Spratly Islands, found in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Yet China continues to control them as part of its expansive claim to virtually the entire South China Sea using its “9-dash line.” This 9-dash line was struck as invalid by a 2016 international ruling after Manila took China to court.