China’s De Facto Control of South China Sea

China’s aggressive reclamation activity in the South China Sea has the potential to give the country “de facto control” over many of the region’s strategic waterways, Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of US Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Many of China’s neighbors are concerned and some are pursuing international legal action and negotiations, he said, emphasizing that the United States has not taken a position on the disputes. The Chinese have been “aggressive” in their efforts to reclaim and develop several areas in the sea, said Locklear. Several inlets and reefs have seen “astonishing” and rapid reclamation activity, including development of airfields and port facilities, he said. China has worked to build a deep-water port facility on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, for staging maritime security operations, he noted. If so desired, said Locklear, China could easily put long-range radars on many of these reclaimed islands, as well as stage aircraft to enforce an air defense identification zone. This activity “certainly complicates the security environment,” he said. (Locklear’s prepared testimony)