Tensions are increasing among the nations that claim territory in the South China Sea. The focus of apprehension is the Paracels, a group of tiny islands. An island known as Woody Island in the west has been occupied by the People's Republic of China, PRC, since 1956.
Recently a flurry of activity on Woody Island has seen dredging to add to the above ocean land and the building of a new concrete runway which will be capable of handling military and heavy aircraft. Satellite images show the construction of a harbour.
China has made claims to the whole of the South China Sea in spite of six other countries that also claim sovereignity over various parts. The stakes are high as the area is rich in marine life and has proven petroleum reserves. The South China Sea is a vital world trade route.
The US has increased its surveillance of the area, much to the annoyance of the Chinese. Senator John McCain has referred to the militarization of the tiny island as “aggressive”. There is apprehension that China’s extensive island building in the disputed area will enable it to control who is allowed passage in that area whether it is sea or air. They unilaterally declared an air defense zone in the Spratley Islands in 2013. It has been ignored by Japan and US flyers.
Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, was quoted on Wednesday while giving a speech in Australia.
"China is creating a 'Great Wall of Sand' with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months," he warned, adding that it raised "serious questions about Chinese intentions." Stars and Stripes
The US has maintained supremacy in the Pacific Region since the end of WW2.