As if there aren’t enough territorial disputes the world over, China is — literally — manufacturing a new one in the South China Sea by transforming a series of lonely reefs into small islands.
Where nautical charts once identified bumps in the sea as Mischief Reef, Gaven Reef and others, China is dredging massive amounts of sand to create artificial islands. Over the past year or so, at least five of these new land masses have popped up in the chain of ocean specks and dots known as the Spratly Islands.
An example: Johnson South Reef, formerly a concrete platform atop submerged rock, now appears via satellite photos to be a sandy island hopping with Chinese construction activity. There’s speculation China is building an airstrip.