If you follow geopolitics you’re well aware that China has become a magnet for maritime conflict and controversy over the past six or so months.
It all started earlier this year when satellite images showing the construction of what appeared to be a 10,000 foot runway (long enough to accommodate military aircraft) atop a newly constructed island in the contested waters of the South China Sea touched off an international firestorm as the US and its allies accused Beijing of seeking to redraw maritime boundaries and expand its naval capabilities at the expense of regional security.
China vigorously denied the accusations, pointing to the fact that other nations had undertaken similar land reclamation efforts in the Spratlys.
The situation escalated meaningfully when the PLA threatened a US spy plane, prompting Washington to remind Beijing that artillery stationed on "sand castles" would certainly not be enough to deter the US Navy from navigating wherever it chooses whenever it chooses to do so.
The "conflict" subsided briefly after a propaganda campaign by Beijing put a humorous spin on the entire ordeal, but China found itself right back in the spotlight last week after Japan essentially accused it of stealing natural gas by positioning rigs too close to a demarcation line that separates the two countries' exclusive economic zones.
For the latest on China’s seaborne exploits we go to Reuters, who notes that Washington and Beijing are back at each other’s throats over the Spratly issue, only this time it’s China which is accusing the US of militarizing the region. Here’s more:
China's Defence Ministry on Thursday accused the United States of "militarizing" the South China Sea by staging patrols and joint military drills there, ramping up the rhetoric ahead of a key regional security meeting in Malaysia next week.
China has been angered by U.S. navy and air force forays through waters it claims as its own, especially this month, when U.S. Navy Admiral Scott Swift said he joined a routine surveillance flight.
The United States has also stepped up military contacts, including drills, with regional allies such as the Philippines, which also has claims in the South China Sea.
The United States was hyping up the "China threat" and attempting to sow discord between China and other claimant countries, Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a news briefing.
"China is extremely concerned at the United States' pushing of the militarization of the South China Sea region," he said.
"What they are doing can't help but make people wonder whether they want nothing better than chaos."
Well yes, one "can’t help but wonder" that about a lot of what Washington does foreign policy wise (especially in the Middle East), although we suspect that this particular issue can be chalked up to a combination of curiosity and the irresistible temptation on the part of the Pentagon to prove to China that no matter what Beijing says, the US will continue to fly, sail, and conduct war games in the region if for no other reason than to spite Xi Jinping.
But the atmosphere isn't completely hostile because as Reuters also notes, China is fine with "certain U.S. officials taking civilian flights over the South China Sea to enjoy its beauty."