South China Sea: Beijing's plan to 'control' waters exposed as tensions increase

CHINA is “building up the infrastructure” in the South China Sea to deter any future conflict in the disputed waters.

China ‘building infrastructure on South China Sea’ says Hayton

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China has made its intentions clear after claiming to own the entirety of the South China Sea. But the Philippines, Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam have competing for claims of sovereignty in the disputed water, a conduit for goods in excess of $3trillion (£2.2trillion) every year. Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, Bill Hayton, has revealed China is building infrastructure to control the South China Sea if a conflict in the area is sparked.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Hayton said: “There are definitely patrolling with submarines in the South China Sea.

“The idea of strategy is they would try to keep all the other countries Navys out of the South China Sea in order to protect their submarines.

“We’re not seeing that happen now but I think China is trying to build up the infrastructure, the surveillance systems and things so if it ever came to a time of conflict, they could control the South China Sea.

“I think that’s a lot of the reasoning behind what is going on at the moment.”

READ MORE: South China Sea row: HMS Queen Elizabeth ignores Chinese threats

South China Sea news

China is “building up the infrastructure” in the South China Sea to deter any future conflict (Image: GETTY)

South China Sea news

China has made its intentions clear after claiming to own the entirety of the South China Sea (Image: GETTY)

Mr Hayton added that conflict could be sparked by “a miscalculation” or if Beijing decided to make a huge power play.

He said: “I think everybody on all sides knows that a conflict would be disastrous but people are still trying to push it to the edge to show how serious they are and to dare the other side into trying to do something that might cause a conflict.

“It’s a tricky time.

“I think everybody knows what’s at stake.

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“The risk of course is a miscalculation or an act by an individual fishing boat captain could end up triggering something that brings much bigger powers into play.

“That’s really the risk that something unexpected might happen.

“The other risk is China might decide to make a big power play and have a confrontation with another navy and that really could cause trouble.”

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South China Sea news

South China Sea map (Image: EXPRESS)

It comes as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has set the scene for a confrontation with Beijing by indicating a Royal Navy fleet will sail through disputed waters claimed by China next month.

Mr Wallace has told The Times during a visit to Japan that regardless of China’s claim to most of the South China Sea, the fleet – led by the new aircraft carrier the Queen Elizabeth – will sail on any route defined as legitimate under international law.

Despite growing Chinese military assertiveness in the region, Mr Wallace said Britain had a “duty” to insist on freedom of navigation in international waters.

“It’s no secret that China shadows and challenges ships transiting international waters on very legitimate routes,” Mr Wallace told the paper.

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