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China to develop new island cities in the South China Sea.

| 2019

China has plans to develop a new island city in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, in spite of the growing international concern and US criticism. China actually aims to transform the Woody Island into a "national key strategic service and logistics base".

China to develop new island cities in the South China Sea The Woody Island (Picture source : Google Maps)

As it appears, China plans to push forward in the South China Sea by developing a new island city in the Woody Island (Yongxing in Chinese), the Tree islet (Zhaoshu in Chinese) and the Drummond islet (Jinqing in Chinese). The city of Sansha, which China claims to be its southernmost territory, has announced plans to transform those three islands into a "national key strategic service and logistics base". This has been reported by the South China Morning Post on March 18.

“We need to carefully plan the overall development of the islands and reefs based on their different functions, taking into account their complementary relationship,” Zhang Jun, the Communist Party secretary of Sansha, said in a statement, according to the Hong Kong–based newspaper. He said that the development would follow through on a directive from President Xi Jinping and that local officials would “take active steps and demonstrate their initiatives” to provide a “satisfactory report card.”

Such additional basing infrastructure and logistics nodes would help China to reinforce its presence, and even expand it, in the South China Sea. This would actually allow the PLA Navy (PLAN), Coast Guard and maritime flotilla to faster replenish fuel and ammunition and to redeploy further and faster from there.

Yet, this new basement could increase tensions between China and the USA. Actually, the US government has many times criticised China's expansionist policies in the area. In November, US Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Singapore, reaffirming the American position against China’s territorial claim. “The South China Sea doesn’t belong to any one nation, and the United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” he said, according to The Week.

And the USA is not the only country to be against this Chinese expansion in this maritime zone. Under international law, stretches of the South China Sea are claimed by Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. Those nations have decided to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, reminding China that they wouldn't let the country do whatever it want in the region, and that this maritime area didn't belong to anyone in particular.

The South China Sea ranks among the busiest maritime traffic routes in the world. This explains how important it is for the countries of the region, and even for other countries such as the USA, the UK or even France, to maintain a protected and open maritime and shipping zone in this area.

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