THE Pentagon released a report yesterday that said China has reclaimed over 3,200 acres of land in the southeastern South China Sea. The report also accused Beijing of using “coercive tactics” to gradually advance its control of the disputed region.
The report was the U.S. Defense Department’s most detailed and extensive assessment of China’s island-building program, and revealed the startling pace of Beijing’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea.
The Pentagon said three of the land features in the Spratly Islands now have nearly 10,000-foot runways and large ports in various stages of construction.
Additionally, China has excavated channels, created and dredged harbors, and constructed communications, logistics and intelligence gathering facilities.
The report argued that the effort doesn’t give China any new territorial rights. But it said it will allow China to enhance its long-term presence in the area.
“This would improve China’s ability to detect and challenge activities by rival claimants or third parties, widen the range of capabilities available to China, and reduce the time required to deploy them,” the report said.
Complicating U.S. and regional efforts to stall China’s territorial advances is Beijing’s calculated reliance on non-military coast guard vessels to enforce its claims, effectively preventing other nations from responding militarily.
“In the near-term, China is using coercive tactics short of armed conflict, such as the use of law enforcement vessels to enforce maritime claims, to advance their interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” wrote the Pentagon.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press