|Chinese Artificial Island Construction in The South China Sea, Photo Philippine Dept. of Foreign Affairs|
BEIJING — China announced on Tuesday June 16, 2015 that it will soon stop building artificial islands and island like enhancements around submerged and semi submerged reefs and shoals in the South China Sea but that the dragon would continue military and civilian development on the already completed projects.
The announcement may have been intended to ease tensions with the United States. The U.S. has strongly criticized the building of the artificial islands and has sent surveillance flights close to the sites. , The whole point to the sights is to enhance China's illegal claim to vast parts of the exclusive economic zones of the Philippines, Vietnam and other maritime neighbors. Under international law effective settlement is the most weighty evidence in a dispute over uninhabited territory. Strategic island ownership can dramatically affect the drawing of exclusive economic zones by international tribunals. The construction of facilities, on the existing but illegally created sites would further establish the sites as islands that China could claim as its territory. There are probably three reasons why the dragon has decided to cease building new islands. First it probably has enough now to dramatically affect its claims in international tribunals. Second constructing artificial islands is very expensive. Third ceasing artificial island construction would probably silence U.S. criticism while doing nothing really to change the Chinese position.
According to an announcement of China's Foreign Ministry web site some land reclamation projects now under construction will be completed in the Spratly archipelago in the “coming days.”
According to the website the sites in the Spratlys would be used for “military defense needs” as well as “civilian demands,” including maritime search and rescue efforts, disaster prevention and mitigation, scientific research, meteorological observation, navigational safety measures and fishery services. The website, of course, didn't mention aiding in legal claims of watery territory once clearly part of the EEZs of China's neighbors.
According to the website; “After the land reclamation, we will start the building of facilities to meet relevant functional requirements,”
A foreign ministry spokesman repeated earlier remarks defending the building of islands, saying that it fell “within the scope of China’s sovereignty,” was not targeting any other country (except of course the previous holders of the exclusive economic zones in which the islands or shoals were located) and "would not affect freedom of navigation or overflights allowed by international law".
In some instances the word garrison was used to describe some of the islands. In April, a Foreign Ministry spokesman used the same term for some sites and said military defense would be one of the uses of the sites.
U.S. sources say that China has built over 2,000 acres of land around reefs and shoals over the last 18 months. American officials and leaders of Southeast Asian nations began criticizing the moves in early 2014. The dragon didn't appear to be impressed with the protest then and actually began accelerating construction. It is not out of good will that the Dragon stops now. Their goals have simply been accomplished. .
China, Taiwan and several Southeast Asian nations make territorial claims or exclusive economic zone claims in the the South China Sea. The United States official position is that it does not take sides in the sovereignty disputes, but it insists that all nations must refrain from interfering with freedom of navigation and from raising tensions.
Vietnam and the Philippines have built on actual islands within their EEZs, and in some disputed waters, but that has largely consisted of constructing buildings vice land reclamation. Much Vietnam's and the Philippines' construction took place before 2002. In 2002 China and several other claimants signed a nonbinding agreement in which each vowed not to act provocatively.
One source noted that Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said that China’s announcement “could greatly reduce its strategic conflicts with the United States, at least at this stage.” Yinghong also added that it could “generate an amicable atmosphere” before Xi Jinping, the Chinese president and head of the Communist Party, visits the United States in September. Of course they never mention that they have already built more than enough artificial islands and shoal to island conversions to materially support their claims to the maritime exclusive economic zones of neighbors.
And of course, Mr. Shi stated that the announcement did not necessarily mean that China was permanently ending land reclamation efforts and regardless, the United States would remain unhappy with China’s behavior in the South China Sea. Of course we will be unhappy; the Dragon intends to continue to violate international law at the expense of our regional allies. Despite the apparent olive branch we still see the swimming dragon as a fire breather who will eventually have to be stopped like all previous thug states by force of arms.
AMAZON'S CHINESE NAVAL READING COLLECTION