U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said today he expects the Chinese government to continue its illegal construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, as propaganda in Chinese media becomes increasingly vocal in support of efforts to cement the nation’s hold over the region.
Speaking before Congress today, Clapper described China’s claims in the South China Sea as “exorbitant,” but nonetheless predicted that China will continue its construction of artificial islands and military facilities in the Spratly and Paracel Islands. He noted that, during a visit to China last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping had assured him that the artificial islands were meant for civilian purposes.
China has completed the construction of an airplane landing strip in the Spratly Islands and appears to be constructing three more. The airstrips will allow surveillance planes to land and refuel in the islands, giving China the ability to easily control everything transiting through the region.
China has begun construction in regions of the South China Sea whose sovereignty is variously disputed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The Philippines and Taiwan both claim the Spratly Islands, while Vietnam and the Philippines each claim part of the Paracel Islands.