IN PHOTO: A U.S. Navy crewman aboard a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft points to a computer screen purportedly showing Chinese construction on the reclaimed land of Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

China has been slowly and steadily expanding its influence in the South China Sea. It has been on a widespread island-building spree with land reclamation and construction in the Spratly Islands, and this has raised the concerns of its immediate neighbours. The United States has repeatedly engaged with China regarding the issue, including statements byfrom President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

According to CNN, the United States is seriously watching the Chinese activities in the South China Sea. China is not the only country to claim the Spratly Islands. Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines have claimed some islands as their territory. China has been one of the last claimants but has expanded at breathtaking speed. Land reclamation activities have been going on at full speed and satellite data also show that military equipment also have been present on the island. Land reclamation essentially involves piling up sand on the reefs and atolls of the Spratly Islands. This creates a pressure on the other claimants of South China Sea.

The Chinese excavation and military build-up have alarmed the Pentagon. The military installations in the South China Sea would provide platforms for land, sea and air weapons to be launched, which would raise the cost of any US military activity. According to Reuters, the US does not have resources to take up a major effort in this direction to combat Chinese activities.

A CNN team reported that the US surveillance aircraft which was patrolling the international waters was cautioned by the Chinese Navy. The Chinese activities have burgeoned in to massive construction actions which would serve as military installations. The fertile fishing grounds and underwater resources have made the South China Sea a potential confrontation point. As the Chinese building activities increase, the aggressive posturing within the region also increases among the neighbours.

The Chinese claims and building activities in the South China Sea have been viewed with concern by all the East Asian countries. Majority of them are U.S. allies, and military presence within this region has been constantly a source of confrontation. But as China becomes more and more ambitious, it threatens the peace within the region.

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