China Using New Loophole to Expand Military Presence in Disputed Waters.
With ISIS continuing to grasp more of the middle east in its grip and Russia never quite removing the possibility that it could be a threat it can be easy to forget about another, no-so-benign world power that has been stirring up trouble--literally--in the Pacific: China.
For some time now, China has been verbally and physically staking a claim to small atolls and reefs in the South China Sea, reefs that it says belong to China. But China's efforts have actually moved far beyond simply trawling waters in coast guard vessels or marking areas in red on a map.
China has been using dredges to build up the small reefs into islands big enough for lighthouses, factories for making cement, and for airstrips. China stated in a recent white paper on defense that its navy will transition from "offshore waters defense" to expand the defense with "open seas protection." Additionally, the Chinese Air Force will shift its focus from merely defense to both offense and defense.
By calling its dredging and expansion of territorial military presence "construction work," China has thrown down a gauntlet of sorts for the United States, Japan, the Philippines, and the rest of the Pacific. It's clear that China is working to gain absolute control of shipping lanes in the South China Sea and that if allowed to build unchecked, the Chinese will expand their territory at will.
This problem has its foundation in the United States' poor showing of military power, however, and the onus of the conflict lies with us. If the United States, under Obama, had shown strength when China first began to push into disputed waters, perhaps they would have learned their lesson.
In the choice between soft power and hard power, the United States chose to try to show no power and ignore the issue. The result is a lessening of the United States' power while China's military is gaining free reign of the south Pacific. We need to draw a line in the sand and let China make the next move.
h/t: Zero Hedge