China building fake islands by dumping sand on coral reefs as it claims South China Sea, says US

Buildings and runways appear to have been bulit on 'great wall of sand', claims US military commander

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China is creating a “great wall of sand” as it takes land in the disputed South China Sea, and could be preparing to launch further grabs of territory, according to the commander of the US’s navy in the area.

Admiral Harry Harris Jr told a naval security conference in Australia that “China is building artificial land by pumping sand on to live coral reefs — some of them submerged — and paving over them with concrete. China has now created over 4 square kilometers [1.5 square miles] of artificial landmass”.

The new land is next to some of the most beautiful natural islands in the world, but "in sharp contrast, China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months," Harris said.

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Chinese-made structures stand on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, in the Spratly Islands in South China Sea

Disputes in the South China Sea about territory were “increasing regional tensions and the potential for miscalculation,” Harris said.

The region is claimed by a number of countries. China claims all of the land there, and has justified previous reclamation on that basis. Those claims have meant it has run into difficulties with other countries that also say parts of the area belong to them.

The US and other countries are increasingly worried that China could begin to claim more of the area using its military. Experts are concerned that the reclamation projects — which are host to buildings and runways — could be used to store military equipment and weapons to enforce China’s claim in the region.

The US has taken a particular interest in the region, claiming that China’s actions in the region destabilise it and could be in contravention of existing international law. But China says that the US’s interest is in meddling, and has dismissed criticisms of its actions.

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