In 2014, China drew increased international attention due to its dredging activities within the Spratlys, amidst speculation it is planning to further develop its military presence in the area. In April 2015 satellite imagery revealed that China was rapidly constructing an airfield on Fiery Cross Reef within the Spratlys. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims on Spratlys islands.
China says the outposts will help with maritime search and rescue, disaster relief and navigation that other countries can use.
Coming in the wake of China declaring an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, over the East China Sea recently and territorial claims, the island building activity is worrisome.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion ship-borne trade passes annually.
Reasons for land reclamation
- unexploited minerals and oil and gas and fisheries
- increasing the country’s security by dominating the maritime approaches to its long coast
- securing sea lanes to the open Pacific
- answer to US rebalancing
India shares the concerns expressed by our ASEAN colleagues. Freedom of navigation in international waters including in the South China Sea, the right of passage and overflight, unimpeded commerce and access to resources in accordance with the principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, are issues of concern to us all. India hopes that all parties to the disputes in the SCS region will abide by the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and work together. PCA in 2016 July declared the Chinese claims- nine dash line- illegal. ( Read Current Affairs Notes 2016 November)