Robert E. McCoy
Or has Beijing now cemented its claim?
The South China Sea China has the potential to become a cauldron of conflict, and China is stoking the fire. By claiming perhaps as much as 90% of the South China Sea, Beijing is trampling on the rights of other nations in the region, nations whose Exclusion Economic Zones (EEZs) and national waters are being violated.
China first laid claim to the South China Sea through its Nine Dash Line in the early 1950s. And other than pathetic vocal protestations by other nations – including the US – nothing was done about it for years. Perhaps no one took the claim seriously at the time.
To be sure, the case went to the International Court in The Hague, which in 2016 ruled against China. Unfortunately, there is no enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance with that ruling.
Nonetheless, those who have been watching Beijing knew that it would not stop there. China soon started occupying various islets and partially submerged rocks within that Nine Dash Line. Not long after, China started improving those small pieces of land, dredging up sand and rock to buttress its artificially-created land.
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Little by little progress was made, and ultimately China built runways on these man-made islets. Recently, Chinese cargo planes have brought military gear and associated logistical material to support full-time occupation. Though many seem to be taken aback by this development, missiles and their associated radars are logical additions to fighters in support of Beijing’s claims to the area.