The Obama administration has been very busy dealing with nuclear negotiations with Iran, a war against the Islamic State, a new conflict in Yemen and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Yet the understandable focus on these other crises has obscured China’s efforts to speed up its militarization of the South China Sea.
Now, Chinese progress has reached the point that senior Pentagon officials and Congressional leaders are demanding the administration do something about it.
There is no shortage of evidence of China’s rapid buildup of infrastructure and armaments in disputed territory far from its physical borders. Satellite photos released last month show that in the past year, China has built several entirely new islands in disputed waters using land-reclamation technology, and then constructed military-friendly facilities on them. In the Spratly Islands, new Chinese land masses have been equipped with helipads and anti-aircraft towers, raising regional concerns that Beijing is using thinly veiled military coercion to establish control in an area where six Asian nations have claims.
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