China Tries To Bolster Claim To Disputed Pacific Islands By Upgrading Mobile Coverage There

from the new-railways dept

The Spratly Islands are some 750 reefs, atolls and islands in the South China Sea that are claimed variously by Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. That’s largely because of the rich fishing grounds that surround them, and the possibility of significant oil and gas reserves nearby.

In order to reinforce those claims, most of the countries listed above have stationed a few military personnel on a few of the larger islands. Recently, China has come up with a novel way of bolstering its position:

In the ongoing dispute over the Spratly Islands claimed by China and Vietnam, the latest development is that China is opening up 3G services on the islands, not only to Chinese soldiers but also for the country’s fishermen.

As the Tech In Asia article quoted above explains:

Chinese soldiers and fishermen will now be able to text message, call, and chat online with family back home over the new 3G network. This upgrade to 3G from regular cellular coverage (started in 2011) and the recent 3G network in the disputed Paracel Islands in July 2012 signals a more permanent Chinese presence on the rocky outposts.

What’s interesting here is how this tighter integration with the domestic network is used symbolically to underline that the various islands are — in China’s view — part of its territory. It can be thought of as the 21st-century equivalent of building roads in the Roman Empire, or laying down railway tracks in the American West.

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Comments on “China Tries To Bolster Claim To Disputed Pacific Islands By Upgrading Mobile Coverage There”

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The Real Michael says:

The real dispute is between Japan and China over these islands, another reason being that each of them want to control the water channel. China has also tried to claim Taiwan as part of its own land, a claim which the latter has rejected. I think that if anyone should have the right to those islands it should be the Taiwanese as these islands neighbor their northeastern edge, somewhat distant from China.

Although we’re helping Japan in this situation, both diplomatically and militarily, we need to be careful whose sovereignity we’re protecting here, mindful not to let things boil over to the point of conflict. While we may be obligated to protect Japan, if they cannot provide undisputable evidence that these islands are really theirs, we would have no obligation to protect them for attempting a land grab.

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