Both powers rebalancing with a tilt towards the Pacific but neither wants conflict
On Tuesday, the United States Navy sent its state-of-the-art guided-missile destroyer, USS Lassen, into waters within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, which China claims. Chinese naval vessels shadowed the USS Lassen until it left the waters around Subi Reef and Mischief Reef. These actions have drawn attention to the risk of incidents at sea leading to growing tensions and even conflict in the South China Sea.
China has built a helipad, wharves, a weather observation station and a four-storey building on Subi Reef after extensive land reclamation. China also appears to be reclaiming land for the building of a runway, as well as a parallel taxiway, capable of meeting any military requirements.
The possibility that such a combat-capable runway is being built, as well as similar facilities on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys and Woody Island in the Paracels, has raised concerns among defence analysts that China would be well placed to enforce an air defence identification zone in the South China Sea if it chooses to establish such a zone, as it has done over contested waters in the East China Sea. China’s extensive land reclamation in the South China Sea was described by the Malaysian Chief of Defence Forces,
General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, as “provocative” when he spoke at the defence-focused Xiangshan Forum in Beijing on Oct 18.