The island fortresses are built. The airfields are ready. The harbours are open.
All China needs do now is move in the warships and combat jets.
By: Janie Siedel
The chief of US Fleet Forces Command has told US Congress that Beijing has built up enough military infrastructure in the South China Sea to completely control the disputed waterway.
“Once occupied, China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania,” Admiral Philip S Davidson wrote.
“The PLA will be able to use these bases to challenge US presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea claimants.
“In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”
It emerged last Thursday that two Australian warships and their supporting tanker were reportedly confronted by the Chinese Navy a week ago as they moved through the region’s vital sea lanes towards a goodwill visit to Vietnam.
In the past, such visits to nations including the Philippines via the South China Sea have been routine.
What has changed is China’s assertion – flying in the fact of a 2016 international arbitration court ruling – that it holds national sovereignty over the entire 3.5 million square kilometre waterway. The sea bounds the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Beijing has established its claim as almost a fait accompli through illegally turning coral reefs and tidal rocky outcrops (the ownership of which is disputed) into enormous fortresses. It says that now these have artificially been turned into islands, they represent sovereign territory.