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Forget About Reefs, China Wants To Build Floating Islands For Military Activities

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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China has a massive new construction project in the South China Sea involving the creation of artificial islands, which furious U.S. lawmakers call “destabilizing behavior.”

New satellite images of the islands emerged Monday, just as the Philippines and U.S. embarked on a joint military exercise with 11,000 personnel — the largest in 15 years, NBC News reports

Reports indicate that China is building what looks to be a 10,000-foot-long runway for military aircraft in Fiery Cross Reef, an area that is part of the Spratly Islands. A minimum of three other countries lay claim to this region, but that hasn’t stopped China from maintaining that its activities are beyond reproach.

Aside from obvious military applications, what’s clear is that the Jidong Development Group is currently proposing to build islands for additional reasons: tourism, shipping, and fossil fuel extraction. The design is modular, meaning that an island could be assembled by linking together modules while on open water.

Chinese officials have stated that the purpose of the “wall of sand,” as Admiral Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, called it, is to aid “maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine science and research,” and other areas.” (RELATED: Congress Raises Alarm As Obama Ignores Chinese Expansion In South China Sea)

That sentiment stands in opposition to aggression in the South China Sea, and no one in Congress is exactly sure on how to respond, likely making a hard power response out of the question. Instead, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said that the U.S. should send military equipment to allies and accelerate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country trading agreement which would bolster U.S. influence in Asia.

“Get this TPP thing done so we at least begin on an economic front doing some things,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker said on Monday, according to The Hill.

“This just shows that it’s necessary for the United States to maintain its posture and its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, especially as it relates to the South China Sea,” Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz said.

There are many possibilities in terms of a U.S. response, but the trend of neglect continues, owing to budget cuts and the U.S. focus on Yemen, Iraq, Ukraine and Iranian nuclear negotiations.

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