Not only has China started building installations on a set of disputed islands in the South China Sea, it has begun enforcing its military control over the air and waterways around them as well.
According to CNN, which had been allowed to board a US reconnaissance plane to conduct a survey over the South China Sea and its disputed islands, the plane they were on received up to 8 warnings from PRC military personnel stationed on the islands to “go away” from what the PRCs considered Chinese airspace.
The US fears that the PRCs are intending to use these islands to further their military control over the region, and to challenge US dominance over the seas. The US and regional nations, including Singapore, are worried that Chinese claims over these islands would affect regional and international sea and air trade.
The US is now considering sending more of such surveillance missions even closer over the islands and sailing U.S. warships within miles of them as part of a new, more robust U.S. military response to make clear the U.S. does not recognize China’s territorial claims.
In a video filmed by the US plane’s surveillance cameras, the crew detected an early warning radar, military barracks, a lookout tower and a runway long enough to handle every aircraft in the Chinese military on a few newly man-made islands within the area of the disputed isles. These new islands are already well protected.
From the cockpit, Lt. Cmdr Matt Newman told CNN, “There’s obviously a lot of surface traffic down there: Chinese warships, Chinese coast guard ships. They have air search radars, so there’s a pretty good bet they’re tracking us.”