Fifteen years ago, when China and the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations committed to establishing a code of conduct to govern actions in the South China Sea, the Paracel Islands were little more than a collection of rocks 138 miles off the coast of Vietnam.
They’re now home to Chinese harbors, helipads, and an air base. Last year, Beijing deployed anti-aircraft missiles to the archipelago. And satellite images released earlier this year by Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington show that more work is being done in likely preparation for further construction.
China’s militarization of the South China Sea, a vast waterway through which more than $5 trillion in trade passes each year, faced sharp criticism from the Obama administration, which regularly ordered freedom-of-navigation patrols to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims in the area.
Read the full article in Christian Science Monitor.