Islands not meant for vacationing

Geopolitical tensions tested

Tommy Callaghan, News Editor

In less than a year, China has transformed seven reefs in the South China Sea into their own mini-islands. But these are not islands made for vacationing. Since August 2014, China’s military has been building port facilities, military buildings and an airstrip on the islands, with recent satellite images showing evidence of two more airstrips under construction. These islands were made to bolster its control over the Spratly Islands, but have actually come to strain geopolitical tensions even more.

But how has China transformed seven small reefs more than 500 miles of its into islands full of military supplies? Instead of transporting mass amounts of sand from land to ocean, China has been taking sediment from the seafloor and piling it on top of the reefs. These islands have been one of China’s primary focuses. Over these last months, construction has been swift and effective.

China’s building activity has been a concern of the United States’s. But, it was not just the building of islands that alarmed the United States. When China built these islands they set travel restrictions for the surrounding area of the islands. Any air traffic had to file flight plans with the islands control towers. The same restrictions were applied to boat traffic: if any type of vessel wished to cross through the area, they had to receive permission. In response to these travel sanctions, the United States Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter criticized China in May, saying, “The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.” And that is what they did. The United States sent several warships and air carriers into the area.

Though tensions are high, conflict never ensued, and hopefully never will.

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