March 26, 2015

Conquering the South China Sea

By Shawn Brimley

China is building military bases on artificial islands hundreds of miles off its coast, in waters claimed by six other countries. These new fortresses in the South China Sea raise the risk of war, yet Washington seems to have no strategy to address them. Are the U.S. and its allies ceding the nearly 1.35 million square miles claimed by China without legal merit, including some of the busiest sea lanes on the planet?

Over the past year Chinese dredging and other landfill techniques have transformed tiny reefs into potential homes for military aircraft, ships, radar facilities and other assets. Formerly underwater during high tide, Johnson Reef is now a 25-acre landmass. Nearby Hughes Reef has grown big enough to host two piers and a cement plant. Gaven Reef is now 28 acres, with a helipad and antiaircraft tower. Fiery Cross Reef has grown 11-fold since August, with what appears to be a three-kilometer airstrip under construction. All are part of the Spratly islands, a cluster of rocks between the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, often some 650 miles from China.

U.S. Senators John McCain, Jack Reed, Bob Corker and Bob Menendez last week wrote a bipartisan letter asking Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerrynot to overlook China’s behavior. At stake, the Senators note, is the security of U.S. allies in Asia, the continued free flow of $5 trillion a year in oil, iPhones and other trade through the South China Sea, and the principle of “peaceful resolution of disputes.”

read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.

  • Shawn Brimley

    Executive Vice President and Director of Studies

    Shawn Brimley is Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) where he manages the center’s research agenda and staff. Mr....