Protests Over, China Seen More Empowered to Militarize a Disputed Sea


Beijing weathered only light protests against its reported missile installations in the Spratly Islands, making it easier to strengthen its military outposts in the disputed South China Sea, analysts say.

Vietnam demanded May 8 that China remove any missiles but did not push further. The Philippines has “active mechanisms” to discuss militarization of the South China Sea but does not see Beijing as a threat, a presidential office spokesman in Manila said last week. Both countries, along with Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan, claim waters where China reportedly deployed anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles in April.

The lack of further protest gives China a clear channel to keep any missiles in place on the three Spratly islets where it has built installations over the past two years and add more weapons systems, experts say. China said last week it was testing bombers.

“The fizzling of regional protests against Beijing’s installation of missiles in the South China Sea means Beijing’s hegemony over said vast body of water is now a virtual fait accompli,” said Sean King, vice president of the Park Strategies political consultancy in New York. “There’s not much left that anyone can do about it.”