(March, 21st) The United States is seeing what may be new Chinese surveying at a reef in the South China Sea that China seized from the Philippines nearly four years ago.
The United States is seeing what may be new Chinese surveying at a reef in the South China Sea that China seized from the Philippines nearly four years ago, Reuters reports.
The activity area is Scarborough Shoal, in the northern Spratly archipelago, about 125 miles (200 km) west of the Philippine base of Subic Bay.
The work might be a precursor to creating an island on which China would put military operations to strengthen its power in the area, through which goes 30 percent of world trade.
Reuters reported that the head of U.S. naval operations, Admiral John Richardson, “expressed concern that an international court ruling expected in coming weeks on a case brought by the Philippines against China over its disputed South China Sea claims could be a trigger for Beijing to declare an exclusion zone in the busy trade route.’’
China claims most of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.
Richardson said China’s expansionism in the South China Sea, which has included creating artificial islands with military facilities, “threatened to reverse decades of open access and introduce new ‘rules’ that required countries to obtain permission before transiting those waters,’’ Reuters reported.
Still, he noted that China’s increasing militarization of the sea had increased the willingness of other countries in the region to work together against Chinese expansionism. He said, for example, that the U.S. military saw good opportunities to strengthen relationships with Vietnam and the Philippines.