Philip­pines ac­cuses China of build­ing il­le­gal is­land

The Myanmar Times - - World -

BEI­JING’S “il­le­gal” is­land-build­ing in the South China Sea moved to cen­trestage at an Asian sum­mit yes­ter­day after the Philip­pines pro­duced ev­i­dence it said showed fresh con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity at a flash­point shoal.

An ar­ti­fi­cial is­land at Scar­bor­ough Shoal could be a game-changer in China’s quest to con­trol the sea and raises the risk of armed con­fronta­tion with the United States, ac­cord­ing to se­cu­rity an­a­lysts.

Bei­jing this week in­sisted it had not started build­ing at the shoal – a move that could lead to a mil­i­tary out­post just 230 kilo­me­tres (140 miles) from the main Philip­pine is­land, where US forces are sta­tioned.

But the Philip­pines has re­leased im­ages it said showed Chi­nese ships in the area that were ca­pa­ble of dredg­ing sand and other ac­tiv­i­ties re­quired to build an ar­ti­fi­cial is­land.

“We have rea­son to be­lieve that their pres­ence is a pre­cur­sor to build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties on the shoal,” De­fence Depart­ment spokesper­son Arse­nio An­do­long told AFP.

“We are con­tin­u­ing our sur­veil­lance and mon­i­tor­ing of their pres­ence and ac­tiv­i­ties, which are dis­turb­ing.”

China claims nearly all of the sea, through which US$5 tril­lion in ship­ping trade passes an­nu­ally, even wa­ters ap­proach­ing the coasts of the Philip­pines and other South­east Asian na­tions.

The com­pet­ing ter­ri­to­rial claims have long been a ma­jor source of ten­sion in the re­gion, with China us­ing deadly force twice to seize con­trol of is­lands from Viet­nam.

Ten­sions have es­ca­lated sharply as China has built is­lands on reefs and islets in the Spratlys ar­chi­pel­ago – an­other strate­gi­cally im­por­tant lo­ca­tion – that is ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.

The United States has re­acted to that build-up by sail­ing war­ships close to the new is­lands, and send­ing war­planes over them.

This has an­gered China, which has ac­cused the Amer­i­cans of “mil­i­taris­ing the re­gion”, and raised con­cerns of armed con­flict between the two world pow­ers.

A UN-backed tri­bunal ruled in July that China’s claims to most of the sea

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