Tensions in the South China Sea, once again have emerged over massive reclamation and dredging operations by China at the Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reef in the Spratly islands.
China has expanded its territorial claims over hundreds of miles from its farthest island province of Hainan as it builds a 2,000 acre of land in the disputed area consisting of small dots of islands, reefs and shoals. The reclamation and man-made island build-up extended up to more than eight square kilometers equivalent to 90 football fields, which China started in the late 1980s is equipped with airfields, ports and lighthouses.
Adjoining or even encroaching on neighboring countries’ s claim of sovereignty over the island chains and nearby contested waters, China asserts and exercises its power. Early this week on Tuesday, China had warned and tracked the USS Lassen, the US naval destroyer, while on patrol in the vicinity of the reclaimed islands. The Chinese Ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, in an interview with CNN on Tuesday accused the U.S. patrol as ” very serious provocation, politically and militarily.”
Meanwhile, although the US has no intentions of claims over the disputed area in the South China Sea, but its sea and air assets sail and flies near China’s reclaimed islands. Last May this year, the US sends a spy plane citing international law and “Freedom of Navigation” as its basis of its maneuvers into the disputed zone. This, according to Gregory Poling, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative Director has given the U.S. influence as it puts forward neutrality in the claims of all the countries near the South China Sea. These countries not only include China but also the nearest country geographically to the Spratlys and a US ally, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunie, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The very recent confrontation in the South China Sea “between the world’s two preeminent military powers” China and the United States as CNN reported, is ushering in growing tensions that may bring absolute risk of a potential war according to Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell.