China's Military Challenges US by Expanding Island Bases, Report Finds

Xi Jinping. File
Xi Jinping. File
Author

03 July, 2017

"New imagery sows that while China is keeping attention focused on its negotiations with Southeast Asian countries over basic principles to manage the South China Sea disputes, its construction of military and dual-use facilities on the Spratly Islands continues", the AMTI said. The worldwide standard is that territorial waters extend 12 miles from a shoreline. The US had been talking to China about trying to curb North Korea's nuclear development, but Trump tweeted that effort had failed last month. Many of these nations have laid claim to islands in the South China Sea, some of which are no more than tiny strips of sand and reef.

Trump on Thursday authorized a $1.3 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which China considers a rebel province. "All operations are conducted in accordance with worldwide law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows", the department's representative said. "China is using its military and economic power to erode the rules-based global order", he said in a speech delivered on Wednesday in Brisbane during the joint US-Australian military exercises.

According to the centre for the study american specialty IMTA, China has recently increased its facilities on the island of Triton, including a new runway for helicopters.

Earlier in the day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry voiced a protest against the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem's entering the waters off the disputed Paracel Islands, known in China as the Xisha Islands. During then-Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson's confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, he suggested that the US should use military force to restrict China's access to the islands.

Washington has criticized China's build-up of military facilities on the artificial islands and is concerned they could be used to restrict free movement through the South China Sea.

USS Kidd in the South China Sea in 2014. File
USS Kidd in the South China Sea in 2014. File

Beijing's continuing construction in the area will allow Chinese planes to operate over almost the entire South China Sea, according to the AMTI. In February, AMTI identified eight hardened shelters with retractable roofs at each of the Big Three, which Reuters had earlier reported would house missile launchers.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs termed the operation "trespassing" and said Beijing had dispatched military vessels and planes in response.

In recent days, China has also showcased its growing naval prowess, on Wednesday launching the first of its newest class of destroyer called the Type 055, which many analysts say resembles the size and capability of the U.S. Navy's Arleigh-Burke guided-missile destroyers, the same class as the Stethem.

The Paracels and the Spratlys are two island chains in the South China Sea claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries.

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