Sunday, May 31, 2015

South China Sea islands are Chinese plan to militarise zone, claims US

Chinese dredgers and construction work on the once-tiny islet of Mischief Reef.

America has told China to stop work on man-made islands but Beijing says its aim is to make dangerous waters safer

Emma Graham-Harrison, NYT
Last modified on Saturday 30 May 2015 19.00 EDT

Dozens of long, flat boats swarm across turquoise waters, inside the pale, curving arc of a new island they have created from open sea in just a few months.

The Chinese dredger barges can reach up to 30 metres below the surface, cutting out and scooping up huge quantities of sand and coral for land reclamation projects. The technology is sophisticated, but the idea is simple: debris is collected from the seabed and piled up until it creates an island.

Sometimes the slurry is pumped straight from the boats in heavy plumes, landing between barriers marking off what will become solid ground. If the areas being dredged and reclaimed are too far apart, it is loaded on to smaller boats that ferry it over before dumping it in place.

Decades old, the technology has been used around the world to build projects ranging from Hong Kong’s main airport and entire districts of Singapore to the ostentatious villa settlements on Dubai’s Palm Islands – man-made islands which form the shape of a tree.

But what was once largely a practical concern of urban planners and developers has been thrust into the international spotlight by Beijing’s decision to use the technology to consolidate its presence on a string of islands in the South China Sea. In barely two years, more than 2,000 acres, an area more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park, has been carved from what were open stretches of the South China Sea.

(More here.)

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