BERLIN: In an effort to increase its control in the disputed areas, China has begun sending its most advanced fighter aircraft and also militarized at least three artificial islands that have been built in the South China Sea.
According to a report, China has begun sending its most advanced fighter aircraft, the J-20, to patrol the East and South China Seas.
This is not a new move for China. Last month, U.S. Indo-Pacific commander Admiral John Aquilino said, "China has fully militarized at least three of several artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, arming them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment as well as fighter jets," VnExpress International reported.
Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S. think tank, said that militarisation matters the most as it authorizes China to do anything when the country is not at war.
Referring to militarization, Poling said that this progress has been a steady development by China and not something with a clear endpoint.
China's Navy now regularly rotates its forces through the Spratlys, a widely-scattered group of uninhabited islets and reefs in the South China Sea, the subject of territorial claims wholly or in part by six neighbouring nations, reported VnExpress International.
China's Coast Guard keeps its dozen boats on patrol every day at Vanguard Bank, at Second Thomas Shoal, Luconia Shoals, and Scarborough Shoal.
There are about 300 Chinese military vessels that were found at anchor in the Spratly Islands each day of the year. And this only becomes possible because the vessels can use the extensive group of islands as their forward operating bases. And the results are pressurizing Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines to move out of the South China Sea, reported VnExpress International.
The Spratly Islands bases were built between 2013 and 2016 and most of the military infrastructure was finished by 2018. And the deployments of navy, coast guard, and militia forces were at their current levels by the end of 2018.
By early 2020, China started deploying its patrol aircraft to the islands regularly but has not deployed fighter jets.
According to Carlyle Thayer, emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales Canberra at the Australian Defense Force Academy, the militarization of artificial islands has allowed China to consolidate its control over the South China Sea, reported VnExpress International.
Thayer said, "China can at present threaten military and civilian aircraft with its HQ-9 system that flies within 125 km of its artificial islands up to an altitude of 27 km. And China can target surface ships up to 400 km."
"This capability should intimidate littoral states. And in times of conflict, China can target enemy ships and aircraft that transit or overfly the South China Sea," Thayer added.
Professor Herman Joseph Kraft, the University of the Philippines, said that China's militarization of some islands in the South China Sea makes it more possible for Beijing to increase its coast guard and navy to patrol the area.
Kraft feared that China will try to strengthen its hold on an artificial island on Scarborough Shoal, which is not going to be acceptable to the Philippines.
Carl Schuster, a visiting professor at Hawaii Pacific University, said that the U.S. has already predicted that China will militarize Scarborough Shoal before 2030 and also expected that the process will start by 2025.
Although China currently has not placed any military equipment or garrison on Scarborough Shoal, maps show the radar covers and weapons coverage that the country has now established in the south of Scarborough Shoal and what that coverage will be when it places a garrison and equipment on Scarborough Shoal, reprted VnExpress International.