The Chinese have been spotted via satellite building dozens of hardened structures atop some of their new, man-made islands in the South China Sea. While China still maintains the islands and any development on them is to help out fishermen, these new structures are just the latest in mounting evidence that its intentions aren’t so pure.
The hardened structures are similar to those used by U.S. forces and serve the dual purpose of protecting aircraft from the elements and from any peering eyes. The continued development on the islands, especially in the wake of a devastating ruling against China by The Hague, on behalf of the Philippines, is really a slap in the face to international law. The Hague effectively ruled that China had no rights to any of its’ claims in the South China Sea. They even went so far as to determine that the Chinese had irreparably harmed the environment as well as unjustly harassing foreign shipping and fishing vessels. But none of that is enforceable. The international courts can make rulings ’til they are blue in the face, but China will continue to do what it wants.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Washington think-tank that analyzed the images, the hangars are large enough to house bombers and tankers. But they’ll probably just fill them with life vests, solar blankets, and extra fishing line for their civilians. Right?
In an interview with Fox News, Greg Poling, Director of CSIS’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said:
These hangars are the smoking gun. You do not build nearly 80 hangars for civilian purposes on these tiny spits of land They’re clearly meant for forward deployment of Chinese Air Force assets.”
Poling goes on in the story to describe the situation as:
They’re holding a gun but they haven’t put the bullet in it yet, and they’re saying that’s not threatening.”
While China continues fortifying its man-made islands in the Spratlys, Vietnam has been spotted moving in rocket launchers on their own islands. This pseudo arms race is due, in part, to the extreme lack of transparency by anyone in the region. Like a group of kids that keeps toeing past the starting line, little by little, when no one is watching, because their opponents are doing it, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and others are going to get themselves caught in no-man’s land. And once they’re caught, or called out, or however it happens, one can only hope that cooler heads prevail.
Image courtesy: CSIS/AMTI/DigitalGlobe