The South China Sea is home to a group of islands and coral reefs called the Spratly islands. These islands are nearly 500 km from the Chinese mainland and closer to the Philippines and Vietnam. China has however staked a claim to these islands, though they are far from the Chinese coast. The reason is two-fold as the Chinese want to secure their strategic interests as well as exploit the area for its economic potential. The Philippines have protested to China and the US secretary of defense Ashley Carter has warned Beijing of trying to take over the islands.
China's feverish build up on islands
The warning from the USA has had no effect and the Chinese are busy reclaiming and creating fresh islands on the coral reefs of the Spratly islands archipelago by pouring sand and rocks on the coral reefs. This is destroying the natural ecology of the region, but the Chinese don't seem to be bothered. The Chinese have built an airstrip and small #military installations on the freshly created islands. The new islands are too small to house any large body of troops but can serve as an excellent staging post for China in this region. The Chinese navy warships are also in the region
China is behaving like a bully and overwhelming the smaller nations who have a legitimate right to the islands in the South China Sea. The Phillipines have protested and taken their case to the International tribunal that has ruled against China. The Chinese have however rejected the findings of the International tribunal and have started a military buildup as well as disturbing the ecology of the region by creating new islands.
The Phillipines and Vietnam have airfields on these islands, but they are not a match for the Chinese military strength in the region. The USA has not recognized the Chinese claims and a guided missile destroyer was sent close to the islands created by the Chinese. However, the destroyer remained outside the 12 km nautical limits of the Chinese-claimed islands. This shows that the USA is wary of China and would not like to provoke a conflict in the region. The Chinese have also planned a naval exercise with Russia in the region.
The Philippine president has already stated that he will not go to war with China on this issue, but at the same time they expect the USA to stand against China. The USA has said it does not recognize the Chinese claim and the international tribunals verdict must be honored. But saying and acting are two different things, and at the moment the advantage is with China. #World Politics