14 June 2014

Beijing Continues S. China Sea Expansion

Wendell Minnick, Beijing Continues S. China Sea Expansion,” Defense News, 14 June 2014.

China appears to be constructing an airstrip and sea port on Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, according to regional media reports, in a move that looks like the next step in its efforts to claim the entirety of a water area roughly the size of India.  …

The expansion is part of numerous reef reclamation efforts being made by China, said Guy Stitt, president of AMI International Naval Analysts & Advisors. “China continues its slow fortification of the claims within its 9-Dash Line,” which outlines China’s purported “indisputable sovereignty” of the South China Sea.

China has active expansion programs on Gaven Reef and Cuarteron Reef, and the placement of a port and airstrip on Fiery Cross or any of the others would “be used to counter a US presence in the Philippines,” said Carl Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy. …

The fear is that …other claimants, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, will begin building fortifications on reefs, islets and rocks, said Andrew Erickson, a China naval specialist at the US Naval War College. 

“Will we increasingly witness an arms race of augmentation as rival claimants fortify features under their respective control with structures, ships, and sand?” he asked.

Erickson questions what this will mean for the otherwise potentially moderating influence of existing norms and international agreements such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea if islets, reefs and rocks are sub­stantially enhanced.

“What will it mean for South China Sea stability if additional military airstrips are built? My forecast: nothing good,” Erickson said. …