Monday, November 24, 2014

China is building an island in the disputed Spratly Islands. -IHS Janes

An aerial view of the island. CNES/Distribution Airbus/Spot Image/IHS.

China is building an artificial island in the disputed Spratly Islands capable of handling aircraft. IHS Janes. The new airfield is at Fiery Cross reef and the new land is 3000 meters long and 200 to 300 meters wide. The Chinese are also creating a harbor that could house major warships and supply vessels. China is also working to connect the new land to an existing structure. The move may be seen as aggressive by the five other countries that claim the Spratly Islands. The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei all claim the island as their own and all of the claimants except for China and Brunei have airfields on various islands. A large military presence on this artificial island may allow China to bully other countries into giving up their claims, or at the very least, give them a strong position at the bargaining table. 

My Comment:
A fairly disturbing report from Jane's. If China is willing to spend what I am presuming to be millions of dollars on this operation, then they are probably willing to fight for the Spratly Islands. This has to be an expensive undertaking, creating an island in the middle of the ocean is no small undertaking, so I can't imagine them giving this up when it is finished. If Jane's is right and the Island will be able to handle aircraft and surface ships then this will be a major deterrent to the other claimants. China's claim to these islands are about as valid as anyone else in the region (ie, not solid at all) but since they are the biggest power in the region they may very well get what they want.

Of course if it wasn't for the resources contained in these islands, nobody would want them. In addition to rich fishing, the islands may have substantial oil and natural gas reserves. China has a huge economy but the one thing they lack is oil. Controlling these islands would give them access to a vital natural resource with the bonus of great fishing. Of course every other power in the region thinks the same thing. The thing is, I don't think all the other claimants combined could beat China in a war unless they had help from the United States or perhaps Japan. If China is willing to go to war over these islands, they will win. They will have a fight on their hands, but there is very little chance of the United States intervening. 

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