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China's Great Sand Wall in the South China Sea
As much of the West is focused on the Middle East, on ISIS, Iraq, Syria and Africa, to stop the growing danger of Islamic terrorists, China has been quietly building its wall of sand based upon tiny atolls and islands in the South China Sea it claims is theirs. China claims a large expanse of this body of water and considers it their territorial water that should be respected by all foreigners.
At the heart of the "Great Sand Wall" are the Spratly Islands, not far from a U.S.ally, the Philippines, which claims they own the islands. The difference in this dispute is that China has been overt and took possession of them by building a small radar station and airstrip on the largest one. They have raised the coral bed so that many small atolls normally under the sea are now out of it and being used as small Chinese stations. China claims that 90% of the South China Sea belongs to them!
Since 2013, China has been dredging five locations using Asia's largest 6000 ton dredging ship. While the Philippines has been the move vocal about this, the U.S. has been passive, content in watching. That is until the recent discovery of the airfield where jet aircraft can land. This was the red line. The US Navy is now considering several actions to "put China on notice" with limited direct military action. This action, flying aircraft over the islands and sending vessels close to the islands, has already angered China. If China does not halt the building, conflict is at hand. China has stated that it would oppose any US flyovers or USN vessels entering their territorial waters without permission. China stated that it will continue to develop the five islands in its "Wall of Sand" project. If US ships enter within the 12-mile water of the Spratly's, what will happen in this face-off? China might do nothing more than threat and continue building. Would the USA actually attack the airbase to demonstrate it means business?
China did not openly grab it like Putin took Crimea using blunt force. China used subtle measures using Coast Guard ships and other civilian ships. Nobody did much about it when it first began. The US simply observed knowing full well what China was probably going to do. The time to oppose it was when it first began, not when its nearly completed. It does not take a rocket scientist to see what China will do once all five locations are completed. They will block transit at will and if the space is violated, will use military action to protect "their" territorial water. To them, any action is justified.
Thus, the near future poses a real dilemma for the U.S. China does not think America would actually use military action. Even those in America think that. The USA is blustering with a show of force for the allies in the region. But as naval ships of both sides are in close proximity of one another with rising tensions, a miscalculation could lead to a military clash. This can lead to anywhere.