The Collision Course in the South China Sea


When I was learning to fly, one of the lessons was that if you see an object on the horizon that is seemingly stationary but getting larger, watch out. It is probably an aircraft closing with you.

Trouble with China in the South China Sea is on the horizon of U.S strategic concerns and getting larger. A major confrontation may be at hand.

China claims sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. Its claims have been disputed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines,Taiwan and Vietnam.

Ignoring these neighbors’ territorial claims, China has built artificial islands on otherwise submerged reefs in the Spratly archipelago. They have built runways, capable of landing military jets, on Fiery Cross and Subi reefs, and are building one on Mischief Reef.

Vietnam and the Philippines have also built up reefs, but on a smaller scale, and mostly to help their fishing fleets.

Offshore islands, real or summoned from the deep, are trouble. Argentina and Chile nearly went to war over the Beagle Channel Islands, off the inhospitable tip of South America, until Pope John Paul II brokered a peace deal in 1984.

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