While America builds carriers, China builds islands.

What should the U.S. do about China’s increased assertiveness in the South China Sea? Beijing claims almost the whole sea—land formations, seabeds and open waters alike—and of late has been literally creating new facts on the ground, constructing 2,000 acres of artificial islands where only shoals or sand bars once existed. Beijing now says those efforts are nearly complete but acknowledges plans to place military assets on the islands, some of which may include substantial airfields.


A June 2015 satellite image of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, part of China’s land reclamation project in the South China Sea. Tonglian/Zuma Press

Washington is deeply concerned and should continue pushing back against any Chinese enforcement of its “nine-dash line” claim to 85% of the region’s map. But the U.S. can’t stop China from building or modestly militarizing its new islands, nor should it try. Even if it rattles nerves from Tokyo to Manila, Hanoi and Washington, Beijing’s campaign is little more than an asymmetric way of establishing regional military presence—and one that even mimics American behavior over the years.

The U.S. builds ships such as aircraft carriers and sails them into the South China Sea. And it should continue to do so. The U.S. Navy’s role in protecting the global commons has been a huge boon to world stability and prosperity—including China’s—for decades. Beijing, struggling to learn the art of aircraft-carrier operations with its one midsize carrier, is trying to establish regional military presence in its own way. While America builds carriers, they build islands.

Full story: http://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-unsinkable-aircraft-carriers-1438880237

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