CANBERRA—A new Pentagon report saying that China’s reclamation activities and construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea increased dramatically during the past few months has aroused widespread fears that the landgrab would derail diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving rival claims through United Nations arbitration.
The report, released last August, pointed out that as of last June, China had reclaimed up to 1,170 hectares across a string of islands in the Spratlys—up by nearly 50 percent from what had previously been known in May. In a press briefing held at the Pentagon as the US defense department released the report on its Asia-Pacific maritime security strategy, Assistant Defense Secretary David Shear said it was unclear whether China had stopped its island-building in the region.
“China has said it … has stopped,” Shear said. He said China may simply be “finishing up” what it had started rather than adding more territory. But: “We are watching it carefully for signs of further construction or militarization.”
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