No, Mr. Trump, China did not build a ‘massive fortress’ in the sea

This was interpreted as a message to America. The same man who accused China of economically “raping” the United States is laying out — in interviews and tweets — a more hostile approach toward the world’s largest nation. No. A tweetstorm about why it matters for signaling and stability. It bears repeating that both are nuclear powers. Legally speaking? Yes, we are. No, China’s H-6 bomber is not nuclear-capable. Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into.. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016
In portraying China as a conniving menace, Trump has repeatedly accused the nation of creating a “massive fortress” in the South China Sea. This explains why the US is deploying these cutting-edge jets to Australia as a message to China. Overstating China’s little outposts as “massive fortresses” only ratchets up the tension. As one defense expert previously told PRI, these weapons, called HQ-9 missiles, can be seen as “agile kings on the checkerboard landscape.” They’re both powerful and mobile. A state-owned paper, beholden to China’s Communist Party, says that “we can’t be frightened by Trump’s bully-boy tactics and picture him as a rival that is so hard to defeat.”
Yet another government-issued op-ed suggests China should “dare to make surprise moves” to shake up the US-China relationship. So, let’s break down what’s really going on here. There are some fortified aircraft hangars and a few long runways that can accommodate fighter jets. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016
their country (the U.S. And they’re certainly capable of destroying US surveillance drones, a persistent irritant to China’s military. How well are these bases armed? More than $5 trillion worth of trade churns through these waters. This is more than mere insinuation. I don’t think so! doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? (1/25)
— Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) December 12, 2016
Does China have the unqualified right to build these bases? That’s how US President-elect Donald Trump describes China’s newest military installations —   a string of island outposts in the hotly contested South China Sea. In July, China was already warning that “there is no guarantee that an escalating war of words will not transform into something more.”
Now that America is set to inaugurate Trump, a president-elect who has lashed out at China more than any other in history, that war of words is getting hotter. Both countries have strong claims to remote islands that China now effectively dominates. Just as China asserts its refusal to budge, the head of the US Pacific Command is warning that “we will cooperate when we can but we will be ready to confront when we must.”
The fallout from such a confrontation could be devastating. He contends that China was merely indicating it could blast targets in the sea with more conventional cruise missiles   — the sort of missiles Russia fires into Syria and which the US recently fired into Yemen. For starters, the islands occupied by China are specks. Their economies intertwined, the two countries could bring down the global order if they clash. Following Trump’s recent contact with the president of Taiwan, seen by the Communist Party as a rogue prefecture, China flew bomber jets over the South China Sea. This potential clash between powers — one ascendant, one reeling from chaotic political transition   — would be felt across the planet. As his inauguration nears, Trump appears to be deliberately scrambling US-China relations. But Trump’s warnings of a “military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has never seen” are bluster. It’s true that China is furiously dumping sand at the perimeter of seven islands. And they’re increasingly taking on more powerful weapons. But China is undeterred. According to Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on nuclear proliferation, the jets aren’t able to fire nukes. In its most audacious move, China upped its defenses earlier this year with missiles that can blow aircraft out of the sky from 125 miles away. They’re equipped with radar emplacements that monitor traffic on and above the sea. How is China responding to Trump? Where might this rhetoric lead? China is building up tiny island bases, armed with missiles, in waters that are vital for the world’s economy. Massive. Given the stakes — a potential armed conflict between two great powers — such hyperbole can only aggravate an already volatile feud. China has also created small island specks that   the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says   may be fitted with anti-aircraft guns. But missiles alone do not constitute a “massive fortress.” America’s most advanced fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, could be expected to take out these missile embankments in a conflict. Even a United Nations tribunal, which rejects Beijing’s sea claims, has not scared it away from plans to gain control of the sea in the 21st century. But so far, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, they’ve added roughly 5 square miles’ worth of land. What China is building in its aquatic backyard is not some saltwater Death Star. Are we sure these island fortresses are not ‘massive’? The worst-case scenario: live-fire conflict between the United States and China. This is rooted in truth. How strong was this signal? The US, which accounts for one-fifth of that traffic, is not keen on letting China dictate who can and cannot pass. These Chinese bases are certainly provocative. — Donald J. The largest one is about half the size of New York’s Central Park. Well, many outlets have claimed that these Chinese jets are capable of launching nukes — but that too appears to be dangerous hyperbole. They’re mocking him. — Donald J. Beijing claims practically all of the South China Sea as “blue national soil.” That is a bold assertion considering that the sea’s waves wash up on several other nation’s shores — namely Vietnam and the Philippines. The second-largest is tinier than Beijing’s Forbidden City. But “massive” they are not.