If China’s talk of rebuilding the legendary “Silk Road” trade route is a means of asserting dominance over Asian land and water, it is hardly the only muscle Beijing is flexing. Reuters reports that the Chinese are accusing the Philippines of violating a largely informal code governing the South China Sea by constructing military and civilian facilities on certain disputed islands. The Philippines Foreign Ministry levels the exact same charge against China.
China accuses the Philippines of “malicious hyping and provocation” for its “large-scale construction of military and civil facilities, including airports, ports and barracks on those islands for many years” on the islands, ostensibly in violation of a 2002 agreement between China and the Association of South East Asian Nations.
The Philippines government claims it has merely performed repair and maintenance work on existing infrastructure, which is allowed under both the 2002 agreement and the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China, on the other hand, has most definitely been engaged in some new construction in the South China Sea: a military-grade airstrip that would give them strike capability across the disputed region, to the consternation of both ASEAN nations and the United States. China says it owns 90 percent of the region; other Asian nations have a considerably smaller percentage in mind.