Issue Brief: Naming and Shaming: U.S. Surveillance Over China's Land Reclamation Projects and Regional Reactions   [open pdf - 473KB]

"On May 20, 2015, a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane flew from Clark Air Base in the Philippines to three South China Sea reefs--Subi Reef, Mischief Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef--where China has been undertaking extensive land reclamation projects in an apparent attempt to bolster its territorial claims and establish a permanent military presence in its near seas. CNN reporter Jim Sciutto accompanied the crew and reported on the mission. Over the course of the flight, the crew received eight warnings by radio, and were told, 'This is the Chinese navy…. Please leave immediately to avoid misunderstanding.' At one point, the Chinese radio operator's warnings grew more urgent, and he yelled 'You go!' According to Mr. Sciutto, the P-8 crew had been flying such missions for months and were accustomed to similar warnings, but they noted the warnings had become more aggressive as China's land reclamation projects progressed. A U.S. defense official told the New York Times the decision to allow a news organization to publicize the mission was deliberate, saying, 'It's important that the American public, and the Asian public, too, understands what's going on out there.' The flight and subsequent media reports come amid growing concern in the United States and elsewhere regarding China's swift progress on seven land reclamation projects in the Spratly Islands since 2014. China is not the only South China Sea claimant to conduct land reclamation to consolidate a territorial claim, but its land reclamation activities have been by far the most extensive and fast-paced. Some of these reclaimed islands boast military infrastructure--such as airstrips long enough to accommodate any of China's air force aircraft, artillery, radars, satellite communication equipment, antiaircraft and naval guns, helipads, and docks--enhancing China's ability to sustain its naval and coast guard presence and project power far from its coast."

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U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission: http://www.uscc.gov/
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