On Friday May 18, China increased its military presence in the South China Sea. A Chinese H-6K bomber plane landed on the largest of the Paracel group of Islands, the Woody island. These islands have long been claimed by numerous surrounding countries including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. China has slowly been increasing its military presence around the islands in order to forcefully assert its claim. China has been internationally condemned in the past for creating new islands through land reclamation. The idea behind the military presence and land reclamation is for China to soon claim the area as theirs, alienating all other nations in the dispute.
Two years ago, China was under deep scrutiny for building a runway on of the islands. Earlier this year, China had also deployed “surface to air as well as cruise missiles” off the coast of the Philippines in the Spratly Islands. In regards to the most recent military development in the area, according to Wall Street Journal, the official statement from the Chinese Airforce said that this H-6K plane was to “help improve actual combat capabilities in responding to various security threats at sea.”
The South China Sea is a busy trade route frequented by various industrial ships carrying valuable cargo for it lies in the middle of numerous south-east Asian states. The area is said to be rich in natural reserves of oil and gas- making the islands that much more valuable to its neighboring states. The seas are also rich in fish- which has the potential to grow any country’s export economy. Resource exploration in the area has been limited in the area because of the land dispute between the various nations. The aim of the increasing military presence is for china to be able to defend its claim: in order strike missiles at and all that come near the islands.
As a response to China’s growing military presence, the United States has dispatched military warships. The U.S. has undoubtedly been a strong critic of China’s actions, and has taken a more forceful role over the years in order to protect the sovereignty claims of their other allies in the region. The actions taken by China in the Spratly islands is quite close the Philippines, prompting a response from them as well. Filipino law makers are grossly opposed to China’s action, some even went as far to say that the Philippines will no longer be subservient to China. On the other hand, Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte was cautious to not outright condemn China. Instead he said that he hopes both countries continue a joint exploration of the islands.
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