China has militarised the South China Sea and got away with it

Jun 21, 2018

LESS than three years ago, Xi Jinping stood with Barack Obama in the Rose Garden at the White House and lied through his teeth. In response to mounting concern over China’s massive terraforming efforts in the South China Sea—satellite images showed seven artificial islands sprouting in different spots—the country’s president was all honey and balm. China absolutely did not, Mr Xi purred, “intend to pursue militarisation” on its islands. Its construction activities in the sea were not meant to “target or impact” any country.

As Steven Stashwick points out in the Diplomat, a journal on Asian affairs, these denials were always suspect, given the growing evidence of radar installations and bomber-sized bunkers made of reinforced concrete. Last month came the revelation that China had installed anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles on three islands in the Spratly archipelago west of the Philippines—far, far from its own shores. (Some or all of the Spratlys are claimed by...

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