In the past 12 months, China has provoked considerable attention with its reclamation activities in the South China Sea, particularly in the Spratlys where it controls seven maritime features.
China’s history of salami-slicing presents a dilemma to regional countries as well as external powers with regional interests: do they escalate an incident each time China slices the salami and risk open conflict, or stand down and allow China to augment its territorial claims.
The million-dollar question remains: who or what will freeze China’s reclamation in the South China Sea? The answer: nothing, really.
It has been proposed, for example, that like-minded states carve out a ‘code of practice’ that would stress the rule of law and mirror the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Another option being considered by the Pentagon is to send U.S. aircraft and ships within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-built reefs in the Spratlys, to challenge its influence there.