Alarm Over Chinese Sea Reclamation

China’s “unprecedented” reclamation projects on tiny disputed atolls and reefs in the South China Sea are raising tension in the region, declared Navy Adm. Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Fleet, in a speech in Canberra, Australia. China has steadily pumped sand onto live coral reefs and paved over them with concrete, creating more than four square kilometers of artificial land capable of hosting facilities and airstrips, he said in his March 31 address to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “China is creating a great wall of sand, with dredges and bulldozers, over the course of months,” said Harris. Together with its “provocative actions” towards smaller claimant states, this activity is raising “serious questions about Chinese intentions,” he said. Other US officials, including Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Lori Robinson, have raised similar warning flags. Robinson noted in February some of the artificial islands now feature garrisons and airstrips capable of hosting military aircraft. The Chinese air force also completed its first military drills over the Western Pacific on March 30, reported the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The drills aimed to increase China’s “mobility and combativeness” in far offshore areas, said Chinese air force officials.