South China Sea Conflict: Vietnam Dredging Work Prompts US Warnings, Fears Over China’s Response

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From the International Business Times:

“A political battle in Asia over control for an important trade route in the South China Sea is heating up, with Vietnam taking steps to dig a channel between a lagoon and the open sea in the disputed territory.  The dredging work is Vietnam’s latest step toward defending its stake to the strategic waterway also claimed by China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and others, Reuters reported Friday.

The construction work on Ladd Reef includes a lighthouse and outpost housing used by a small group of Vietnamese soldiers, according to an image taken on Nov. 30 by U.S.-based satellite firm Planet Labs. Vessels can be seen in the channel.

“We can see that, in this environment, Vietnam’s strategic mistrust is total … and they are rapidly improving their defenses,” Trevor Hollingsbee, a retired naval intelligence analyst with Britain’s defense ministry, told Reuters. “They’re doing everything they can to fix any vulnerabilities – and that outpost at Ladd Reef does look a vulnerability.”

Vietnam could be working toward using the Ladd Reef as a post for supply ships and fishing boats, said Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. Vietnam previously sought in August to add mobile rocket artillery launchers capable of attacking China on its territory in the South China Sea, through which some $5 trillion in world trade is shipped every year.”

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