China’s Neighbors Are Wary of Its Assertiveness in the South China Sea

China’s Neighbors Are Wary of Its Assertiveness in the South China Sea
A U.S. Navy amphibious assault vehicle with Philippine and U.S. troops on board storms the beach facing one of the contested islands in the Scarborough Shoal, South China Sea, April 21, 2015 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the South China Sea territorial disputes and the various claimant countries' approaches to addressing them.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was in Hanoi today, where he and Vietnamese Defense Secretary Phung Quang Thanh signed a “joint vision statement” that outlines expanded military ties and increased maritime security cooperation. Carter also announced plans to give Vietnam $18 million for the purchase of coast guard vessels from the United States.

Carter’s visit comes as tensions in the South China Sea are on the rise, given China’s aggressive island-building campaign. Though other countries have built facilities on disputed islands in the South China Sea, China’s are exceptional for their size and scope. As Timothy R. Heath explained last month for World Politics Review:

China has complemented its island-reclamation activity with an array of administrative, legal and other governmental efforts to consolidate control over the area within the so-called “nine-dashed line,” a common Chinese term for the demarcation of its maritime claims in the South China Sea. In the past three years alone, China has consolidated its maritime law enforcement agencies into the Chinese Coast Guard, expanded its white hull fleet and patrol presence, strengthened the administrative powers of Sanya City over the nine-dashed line and expanded military exercises in the disputed waters. These policies reflect years of planning and high-level attention.

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