National Post View: China gets greedy


In the waters of the Pacific lies the area known as the South China Sea. The area, which can generally be described as the waters south of Hong Kong between Vietnam and the Philippines, is a mishmash of tiny islands — some little more than rocks — and competing territorial claims. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all claim different, sometimes overlapping, sections of the sea and its landmasses.


Some of those tiny specks of land, however, are growing rapidly less tiny. Satellite reconnaissance has revealed in recent months that China has been aggressively expanding some of the rocks it claims as its own into full-fledged artificial islands. Reefs with a few stones jutting above the waves have been transformed through dredging, sand dumping and concrete pouring into man-made spits of land capable of holding artificial structures, helipads, air-defence batteries and, in at least one instance, an airstrip large enough to support military operations. Land reclamation is nothing new, but the scale of these efforts is astonishing.

And for China’s neighbours, particularly Japan and the Philippines, alarming. In recent years, China has been aggressive about using its military to lay claim to disputed bits of land in the vicinity of potential oil resources or fishing stocks. The outright creation of land takes this behaviour to a new height: rather than asserting ownership over disputed islands, China can simply create one and claim it as its own. This not only gives China the ability to claim exclusive economic rights over areas it insists belong to Beijing, but also the ability to position communications equipment, supplies and ordinance, and land-based monitoring gear, missiles and aircraft in a contested area.


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