The runway is on Fiery Cross Reef, part of the Spratly Islands which are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and China. As the most powerful of the group, China is increasing its presence in the region, constructing ‘fake islands’ by dumping sand and concrete onto living coral reefs-which is the case on Fiery Cross among others-and now by building airstrips to potentially increase its military presence within the disputed territory.
China’s actions are not going unnoticed, particularly to the United States, a long-time ally of the Philippines, which is worried about China’s aggressive nature towards these smaller countries. President Barack Obama expressed concern over China using its “sheer size and muscle” to bully other countries into submission, a tactic not unknown to the People’s Republic.
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Wang Yi insisted that the work is “mainly for the sake of improving the relevant functions of these islands and reefs, and improving the conditions of workers on the islands and reefs,” though a statement made a week earlier admitted that “satisfying the need of necessary military defense” was also a goal. Thus the other claimants are fearing-and rightly so-that China is expanding its military throughout the area to enforce its perceived authority over one of the planet’s largest shipping routes.
All in yet another obvious attempt for China to exert its dominance on the world stage.