Sunday, June 5, 2016

Tensions escalate over South China Sea claims

Admiral Sun Jianguo
Asia's largest defence summit concluded on Sunday amid growing fears of a legal and military showdown in the South China Sea over China's rapid construction of artificial islands with ports, airstrips and helipads in one of the world's most bitterly contested waterways.

PLA Major-General Yao Yunzhu
At the weekend-long Shangri-La Dialogue, Chinese military officials vowed to ignore a legal ruling expected in the next few weeks by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The Hague court is expected to rule on the legality of the so-called "nine-dash line", China's cartographic marker that it uses to claim territorial rights over most of the resource-rich sea.

The nine-dash line, first shown on a 1947 Chinese map, carves out an area that runs deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, and overlaps claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

PLA Major-General Yao Yunzhu, speaking at the summit said the US military's presence in the disputed waters could be interpreted as "battlefield preparations".
China is reportedly close to imposing an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), which would require civilian aircraft to identify themselves to military controllers in the region. Beijing made a similar declaration two years ago in the East China Sea over several islands contested by Japan.
China has created islands and installed military hardware at a rapid pace and now asserts sovereignty over most of the 3.5 million-square-kilometre waterway.