China’s land reclamation triggering an arms race in the region

14/04/2015


It is difficult to say whether there is an ongoing arms race in the Southeast Asia and East Asia. China’s increased defense spending and its land reclamation will lead the rest of the region to follow suit.
The dispute between Vietnam and China over the CNOOC oil rig has been resolved by the withdrawal of the 31,000 ton structure from the Vietnam’s EEZ of the Paracel Islands, but the fight in the South China Sea is far from over. Vietnam, China, The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan all have existing territorial disputes on islands and reefs in the sea. Controversy over the legal stewardship of the South China Sea stems not merely from land-sea border baseline delimitation claims. Existing developments such as oil and communications platforms installed back in the 1980′s and beached, but manned, ships are cited by these states as evidence supporting claims to ownership. Now, with the introduction of ‘island building,’ China is stirring up choppy waters and increasing the pressure on its South-East Asian neighbors, which could lead to an arms race.
A prominent case in point is a major reclamation project on the disputed 7.2-square kilometer (4.5-square mile) Johnson South Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago. Photos taken since March 2012 document China’s creation of a 30-hectare (74-acre) island atop the previously submerged reef by dredging seabed material and then dumping it using pipelines and barges. China’s beach building is not limited to Johnson South Reef, which may, in fact, just be a warm-up act. Satellite images have confirmed similar dredging activities, albeit at a smaller scale, at other structures in the Spratly archipelago: Cuateron Reef (the southernmost of China’s reclamation projects), Gaven Reef, and Johnson North Reef and Chinese efforts center on Fiery Cross Reef.
The newly formed island could act as an advanced outpost for Chinese military campaigns and as a mechanism to advance ownership claims. China asserts their actions are justified, and that under UNCLOS any newly developed and populated island would extend Chinese territory past the 9-dash line. Militarization of the island could trigger an arms race, forcing all nations with claims to ramp up military expenditures and increase construction of outposts in the sea. This would cause widespread economic problems in countries that are just now liberalizing international economic policy to increase development. An escalated dispute could also put future trade and investment treaties between the ASEAN bloc and China in jeopardy, reducing the annual FDI inflows these nations receive. Ultimately, an arms race could play out in one of two ways: 1) If there is no military conflict the result would be decreasing trade, economic consequences, and missed opportunities, or 2) there could be a military conflict between China and one of its Asian neighbors.
Wary of China’s increasingly aggressive stance in territorial disputes with neighbors, several Asian countries are arming themselves –triggering an unprecedented arms race in the world’s most populous region.
Asian countries now account for about half of the world’s arms imports as they scramble to spend defense dollars amid escalating spats over contested reefs and waters in South and East China Sea involving China and neighboring countries. According to defense publication IHS Jane’s, the Asia-Pacific region is the only part of the world to see military spending grow steadily since 2008.
The level of maritime arms spending by the Asia-Pacific states alone is expected to double to about $14 billion by 2009. Even small member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are likely to add to the number of their submarines and relatively large warships such as corvettes, frigates, and destroyers equipped with the most modern guided weapons, including cruise missiles.
The biggest spender is China, which has more than quadrupled its military spending since 2000. Each time China announce an increase in defense budget, it becomes a major concern for many neighboring countries. China could have imported more than US$11 billion worth of weapons mainly from Russia. China, second only to the United States in overall military spending, is allotting a record $144.2 billion defense budget for 2015, an increase of 10 percent compared with that of 2014. As its economy grew in the last few decades China’s defense spending rose by double digits, the biggest incremental rise in the whole of Asia. To put things in perspective, Beijing’s military spending nearly equals the combined defense budgets of all 24 other countries in East and South Asia.
Smaller nations, like the Philippines and Vietnam, have also found themselves caught up in the mad scramble to spend more on defense amid recent standoffs with Beijing over contested areas in the Paracels and the South China Sea. The Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the region, is boosting spending on maritime patrol aircraft, guided missile frigates and is planning to acquire submarines in the future.
Vietnam has received three of six Kilo-class submarines it ordered from Russia plus maritime patrol aircraft capable of hunting down Chinese subs. Russia is the top military exporter to Asia, followed by the U.S. and then European countries such as the Netherlands.
The robust development of China’s defense power, especially the navy forces, may lead to a potential arms race among countries in Northeast and Southeast Asia. This is a dangerous move as it may result in regional instability and insecurity and may not benefit the parties involved. The growing power of China is one of the main incentives driving the arms acquisition process among the region’s countries. The situation now is closer to a classic situation causing an arms race, with only the exception that these countries are not enemies. But they are becoming real competitors. The most dangerous high stakes arms race centers on Northeast and Southeast Asia. Any attempt to dismantle the global military-industrial complex must start with the military forces that face one another there.
 Criticisms against China’s aggressive actions in defiance of international law in the South China Sea at the mentioned conferences demonstrated the international concerns over China's threats and hegemonic maritime policies./.
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All comments [ 9 ]


Shut Down 16/4/15 16:28

That's right. countries in the area must increase their military capacility to face China

Shut Down 16/4/15 16:28

That's right. countries in the area must increase their military capacility to face China

Funny Day 16/4/15 23:36

Vietnam should spend on more modern arm weapons to self-defend

Phu Chem 16/4/15 23:46

Vietnam's six Kilo-class submarines bought from Russia will create significant menace toward china

Quay Tay 21/4/15 23:46

this year, China has increased it's defense budget to high level that made the US and many countries worry

Rực Rỡ 21/4/15 23:51

many other ASEAN countries have also enhanced the strength of their submarines, not only Vietnam

Thị Trinh 21/4/15 23:56

with "rebalancing" policy, the US is promoting their military presence in the Pacific Asia

Tứ Long 21/4/15 23:58

almost countries have worried about the threat from China

Trần Bướng 22/4/15 00:00

thats right , due to an agressive powerful country

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