Although the Communist nation is reportedly years away from controlling the highly disputed region, Taiwanese officials warned of the threat posed by the Chinese air defence identification zone (ADIZ). Beijing is working to establish a framework to assert control.
Military news site US Navy Institute (USNI) reports China has hinted at an ADIZ over the South China Sea for years.
However, despite other nations declaring ADIZ over regions, experts believe China is not ready to declare a zone over the region.
Since seizing the Paracels in 1974, China has built military installations on the islands.
But the Spratly Islands are further away from mainland China and are all claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
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The South China Sea region is highly disputed
Greg Poling, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia and the director of the Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, believes China has limited ability to declare a zone.
He said: “The reason for holding off has always been that they wouldn’t be able to enforce it, at least not over the Spratly Islands.
“They are too far from China, and Beijing had no airpower based on them.”
Mr Poling goes on to say how China is not able to enforce an ADIZ in this region unlike in the East China Sea.
The Spratly Islands are claimed by other countries
But he said, due to the Chinese military building infrastructure to support military vessels, they expect to see deployments to the Spratlys “sooner or later”.
He said: “And we do expect to see the first deployments of combat aircraft to the Spratlys sooner or later—they didn’t build 72 fighter jet hangars for nothing.
“But it is still hard to see how they could actually enforce the ADIZ—it would be an enormous undertaking to actually maintain air power out there without it rusting away in the conditions.”
Mr Poling believes declaring an ADIZ in the region is just “part of the chest-thumping of China’s Wolf Warrior diplomats”.
Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea
Former Indian Navy Captain, Sarabjeet Parmer, believes China’s long-term claims to the Paracel Islands is growing due to agriculture.
He said: “The latest thing is growing crops on the Paracel Islands.
“But to grow crops, first of all, you have to have soil, which means there’s some thought of an agriculture revolution taking place on the Paracels which permits this.
“And of course, you need to have water.”
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According to the Global Times, China grew about 1,653 pounds of bok choy cabbage, lettuce and baby Chinese cabbage on the island’s beaches.
The UNCLOS states any rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life shall “have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf”.
But Capt. Parmer believes growing crops is a “stamp of sovereignty” and will strengthen China’s claim over the region.
The South China Sea region is a disputed territory where it faces rival ownership claims from China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
The beautiful region of the South China Sea
Diplomatic relations between the nations, which have laid claim to the islands, are already extremely strained.
The recent construction of bunkers on some of the atolls points to China preparing to “protection against air or missile strikes”, raising the prospect of a potential conflict, sparking World War 3 fears.
The islands and surrounding reefs have been the subject of a bitter and long-running territorial dispute, with China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all laying claim to parts of the archipelago.
Published at Thu, 04 Jun 2020 16:29:00 +0000