Military facilities in S China Sea easy targets for US forces: experts


China’s man-made islands and military constructions in the South China Sea would be nothing more than a “sitting duck” for US armed forces in the event of a naval conflict, say both American and Chinese experts.

In interviews with the US-based outlet Defense News, Ian Easton, a China defense specialist at the Project 2049 Institute in Washington; Wallace Gregson, a former assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, and Zhu Feng, a South China Sea expert at China’s Nanjing University, all agreed that China’s rapidly expanding land reclamation efforts and militarization on disputed islands in the South China Sea “would not survive long in a war with the US.”

As such, claims by the US that China’s reclamation program is a military effort should be dismissed as nothing more than “consipracy theories,” said Zhu, who added that Washington is simply being paraoid and “overplaying” the activities and should not see it as a “creeping provocation or challenge to their authority.”

“If the islands are militarized they are sitting ducks to the US military, so island reclamation means nothing, changes nothing,” Zhu said, warning that plans to send US warships to the region would only “raise tensions unnecessarily.”

Easton, however, acknowledges that the People’s Liberation Army views the militarization of the islands as “creating an outer defensive perimeter to extend its precision strike battle networks,” adding that the facilities will “enable precision strikes from aircraft operating on the islands, from submarines resupplying there and from on-island cruise missile sites.”

Likewise, Gregson also concedes that the military facilities will provide the PLA with “radar coverage, signal intelligence and aerial coverage of the South China Sea.”

Officially, China still insists that its activities in the South China Sea are largely for civilian purposes such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, fishery safety, ocean preservation and scientific research, according to Wang Dong, an expert on China-US relations at Peking University. “I think China is being honest by acknowledging that there will be defensive military value to the facilities but they are mainly for civilian purposes,” he said.


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