China’s People’s Liberation Army is continuing to militarize the South China Sea in response to growing territorial disputes. The source of geopolitical tension is several natural and artificial islands occupied by the Chinese and disputed by other regional powers and the United States.
Among the islands in question are the Paracel Islands, which are occupied by China, but claimed by Vietnam. To project a sphere of influence, the Chinese have built considerable military and naval capabilities in the Paracels. Protected harbors capable of hosting naval warships have been constructed, and air defenses have been deployed for over 12 months.
According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, China has also built seven artificial islands in the Spratly Island chain, far west of the Paracels. According to the group, rapid militarization continues despite Beijing’s claims to the contrary.
“China appears to have built significant point-defense capabilities, in the form of large anti-aircraft guns and probable close-in weapons systems, at each of its outposts in the Spratly Islands… We did not know that they had systems this big and this advanced there.”
While according to China, the territorial claim of islands in the South China Sea is purely defensive, the seizures threaten international freedom of navigation in the Sea. Senior Chinese officials told the press, “necessary military facilities are mainly for self defense. When someone is flexing muscles at your doorstep, wouldn’t you prepare a slingshot?”
The Trump administration has yet to challenge China in the region. In a Friday morning concession to Beijing, President Trump agreed to honor the “One China” policy, declining to acknowledge Taiwan as an independent country.
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