What Makes an Island? Land Reclamation and the South China Sea Arbitration

We have all heard about land reclamation by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the South China Sea, particularly the southeastern region known as the Spratly Group. But much less is being said about what the Permanent Court of Arbitration just finished considering for the past week: are artificial islands really islands? According to […]

Diplomacy Changes, Construction Continues: New Images of Mischief and Subi Reefs

On June 16, 2015, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang announced that “as planned, the land reclamation project of China’s construction on some stationed islands and reefs of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands will be completed in the upcoming days.” He went on to note that after land reclamation on existing features was complete, China would continue to […]

China’s Land Reclamation Announcement: A Change in Message, Not in Policy

Q1: What has China announced about its land reclamation activities in the Spratly Islands? A1: On June 16, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang announced that “as planned, the land reclamation project of China’s construction on some stationed islands and reefs of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands will be completed in the upcoming days.” He noted […]

China’s Claims are Unambiguously Ambiguous

In the first paragraph of his recent AMTI article, Zheng Zhihua essentially conflates two issues–questions of sovereignty over islands and questions of jurisdiction over resources and the boundaries delimiting them–when he says: A few international observers also accuse China of deliberately obscuring its territorial claims in the South China Sea by using terms not found […]

Massive Island-Building and International Law

Within the short span of a year, China’s rapid construction of artificial islands in the disputed Spratlys has radically changed the geographical and security landscapes in the South China Sea. This island construction has so far created over eight million square metres of real estate in the open sea, outstripping other countries’ reclamation activities by […]

Furthering U.S. Strategic Goals in the South China Sea

China’s reclamation blitz in the Spratly Islands continues unabated, despite condemnation from fellow claimants and outside nations. Chinese dredging ships have been hard at work expanding at least seven features: Cuarteron, Gaven, Hughes, Fiery Cross, Johnson South, Mischief, and Subi reefs. Their work will be largely complete in a matter of months, presenting the region […]

The Other Crisis in the South China Sea

China’s accelerated construction activities in the South China Sea have understandably alarmed countries across the region and beyond. In particular, Southeast Asian claimant states such as Vietnam and the Philippines are deeply worried about the prospects of an irreversible Chinese consolidation of its sweeping maritime claims, more expansive Chinese paramilitary patrols in the area, and, […]

On the Defensive? China Explains Purposes of Land Reclamation in the South China Sea

Growing international criticism of China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea and the publication of detailed images of China’s dredging and construction activities prompted the Chinese government to explain in greater detail than ever before the purpose of these activities. In response to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s charge that China has “intensified the […]

U.S.-Philippines Balikatan Exercise in the Face of Chinese Island Building

The Philippines and the United States will hold a large-scale 10-day military exercise known as Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) from April 20-30. This takes place in the face of China’s island-building activities in the South China Sea.  For Balikatan 2015, 11,740 American, Filipino, and Australian troops will conduct joint training exercises and maneuvers in three separate locations […]