CHINA is “preparing for World War III” with its ominous South China Sea military build-up, a US Senator has claimed.
Warships from the two countries have been engaged in tense stand-offs which have threatened to escalate into conflict in the disputed seas.
China lays claim to vast swathes of ocean and many islands – but some parts are also claimed by the likes of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.
The fresh concerns were raised by Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma during a Senate hearing discussing the new challenges presented by Russia and China.
“It’s like you’re preparing for World War III,” Inhofe said. “You’re talking to our allies over there and you wonder whose side they’re going to be on.”
He said he was “concerned” that the message was not coming across, after China used a media blitz to present a host of illegal, artificial islands as “search and rescue centres”.
Inhofe believes the US sat back and watched as China staked its claim on the contested reefs and rocks, and did nothing as it turned them into artificial islands bristling with weapons and fortifications.
Early last year, Chinese state media circulated images of the completed 2.8km square island fortress for the first time after the completion of its land-reclamation and construction works.
The reef is disputed territory, also being claimed by the Philippines.
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“The centre will offer better support to maritime rescue operations in the southern part of the South China Sea,” Xinhua quotes the ministry as saying.
Completed last year, the island now holds more than 100 buildings and is the third largest of China’s artificial island fortresses.
Beijing has offered no explanation for the presence of numerous fortifications, gun and missile emplacements, hardened aircraft hangars and a military grade runway and port.
A version of this article originally appeared on News.com.au
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