China’s claim of a majority of the disputed land and water, the possibility of a South China Sea war still looms in the region. Following the Philippines’ historic win of its arbitration case in The Hague, China has repeatedly chosen to ignore the ruling and proceed with its activities in the area.
Amidst international pressure to submit to the international court ruling, China has reportedly been increasing its presence near the highly disputed Scarborough Shoal. Photos of Chinese ships near the reef surfaced over the weekend, while the G20 Summit was progressing.
The Philippines’ Department of National Defense reported that its Air Force spotted more ships than usual, at least eight, near the shoal. After the sighting, the Philippines demanded China explain its increased presence, reported the Washington Post.
According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday, the Philippines is concerned that the increase in China’s presence and vessels – four Chinese coast guards, two barges and two boats believed to be troop carriers – could be an indication of plans to dredge and build near and around the Shoal.
— RealClearDefense (@RCDefense) September 6, 2016
Similarly, per a Pentagon official, China’s increase in ships and patrol crafts have signaled its ignorance of international calls. Intelligence has reported Beijing plans to dredge and construct before the year is concluded – most likely in December.
Pentagon officials are concerned that China is planning to build a triangle of military bases – to boost its capabilities – that includes a range from Subi Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Mischief Reef in the south, and its latest addition, Scarborough Shoal.
The Philippines and the United States are both concerned over the Shoal’s development by China given its proximity to Subic Bay, where the US still has a presence. Should the reef become militarized, not only will it be near prime areas of the Philippines bt its naval power projection could have repercussions on US forces.
China has been using island-building as its strategy to advance its military presence and secure its operational landscape throughout a greater expanse in the region.
On Sunday, a US State Department spokesperson said the US was continuously monitoring the situation and has encouraged all parties to “exercise restraint” and do what it can to decrease the tensions in the region.
What are your thoughts on the reports that signal a South China Sea war is still within the realm of possibility?
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