US Admiral: China 'Muscling Us Out' of Key Region

China is creating a “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea in an attempt to take it over, an American admiral said this week.

Yaakov Levi ,

Shanghai, China (illustration)
Shanghai, China (illustration)
Liron Almog/Flash 90

China is creating a “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea, and thus building hegemony in East Asia at the expense of the United States, an American admiral said this week. Construction of new islands in the region is raising tension with China's neighbors, and is likely to set off a major conflict at some point, said US Pacific Fleet Commander Harry Harris.

“What’s really drawing a lot of concern in the here and now is the unprecedented land reclamation currently being conducted by China,” said Harris. “China is building artificial land by pumping sand on to live coral reefs –- some of them submerged -– and paving over them with concrete.”

The area is among the world's most-used shipping lanes, and is claimed by several countries. By building the islands, China is advancing its claims at the expense of others in the region, several countries have charged.

Last week, Philippines President Benigno Aquino said that the construction was clearly an attempt by China to “strongarm” its way into hegemony. “At some point in time the islands become inhabited, will that be the basis of a new claim, right of self-determination, we want to be part of China? Suddenly we’re a hop, skip and a jump from their various weapons of war.”

According to China, the construction is necessary, and is not designed to intimidate or strongarm anyone. “China is carrying out necessary construction on its own islands, and that isn’t directed against and won’t affect anyone,” said Foreign Minister Wang Yi. “We are not comparable to some countries that like to build illegal houses on others’ territory.”