China Opens Maritime Hub to Tighten Grip on South China Sea

DigitalGlobe overview imagery of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea.
DigitalGlobe via Getty Images

China Opens Maritime Hub to Tighten Grip on South China Sea

Reinforces claims of sovereignty over disputed strategic territory

China announced on January 29 that it has opened a maritime rescue facility on one of its artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, as the nation works to tighten its control over the strategic trade route. The rescue hub is on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, which is also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

China’s Ministry of Transport emphasized the peaceful purposes of the new center, saying it will “better protect navigation and transport safety in the South China Sea.” But Fiery Cross Reef is also home to an airbase that includes a 9,800-foot runway, early warning radar system, anti-aircraft weaponry and a missile-defense system.

Since China began building Fiery Cross and six other artificial islands in disputed parts of the South China Sea five years ago, it has insisted that the project is not for military purposes. But satellite imagery and Western intelligence reports consistently tell another story.

It is evident that these increasingly militarized islands are intended to function mainly as air and naval bases, allowing China to enforce its claims not just to the Spratly Islands but to nearly the entire South China Sea, and beyond.

“The only thing lacking are the deployed forces,” United States Navy Adm. Philip Davidson wrote last year. “Once occupied, China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania. In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

A Vital Sea Route

The South China Sea is among the world’s most important ocean regions. It is immensely wealthy in natural resources, containing an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil, 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and an estimated 10 percent of global fisheries.

More importantly, $5.3 trillion of trade flows through the South China Sea each year, more than 30 percent of total worldwide shipping.

Parts of this sea are claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei. Most countries’ claims are founded on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which establishes that a nation’s territorial borders extend 200 nautical miles from its coast, and this maritime region is the country’s exclusive economic zone. Natural resources found inside a given nation’s zone belong exclusively to that nation. Areas outside this zone are considered “international waters” and its resources are fair game for all.

Most nations follow these international laws to determine their maritime boundaries. But not China.

China claims that it has historical claims to the South China Sea dating back to expeditions in the 1400s. The Chinese have marked the region they claim using a perplexing delineation called the “nine-dash line.” This line asserts that almost the entire South China Sea, an area nearly the size of India, falls under Chinese control.

China is focusing on the Spratly Islands because they are situated both geographically and emblematically at the center of the South China Sea. The stakes are particularly high in this area, because any country that can claim the Spratlys may have legal justification for extending its exclusive economic zone to include the islands and a sizable part of their surrounding waters.

But with construction on its artificial islands forging ahead virtually unchallenged, China is now beyond such legal concerns and is poised to control the region whether or not it has legal rights to do so. “There’s no going back,” wrote News Corp Australia Network on February 7. “Beijing has won the South China Sea.”

China Is ‘Steering the World Toward War’

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has said that China’s takeover in this strategic region is “steering the world toward war.” In our July 2016 issue, he addressed China’s island building and militarization in the Spratly area: “China is being aggressive and provocative,” and thereby challenging “seven decades of American naval dominance in the Pacific Rim.” This aggressive behavior “should alarm the world!” he wrote.

“Since Japan’s defeat in World War ii, America has protected this vital trade route and brought peace to this part of the world,” he wrote. But since the American military is now retreating from the region, “other great powers are coming in to fill the vacuum,” he continued. “China is intimidating the nations of Southeast Asia into submission to its will. It is forcing these countries to do what it wants. Everything is headed in the direction of war.”

Mr. Flurry’s understanding of the South China Sea dynamic is based on Bible prophecy.

In the book of Deuteronomy, God issues a grave warning to the nation of Israel, explaining that if its people rejected Him, He would hand control over the world’s strategic sea gates to their enemies. And He warned that these enemy nations would use that control to besiege Israel: “And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trusted, throughout all thy land …” (Deuteronomy 28:52).

Mr. Flurry explained that this biblical warning is not just for ancient peoples who were alive when God inspired Moses to pen it. “It is a prophecy for the modern-day descendants of Israel,” he wrote. “Two nations in particular represent Israel in this end time: America and Britain.” These two countries “are full of terrible sins today, and God is going to correct them for that!” he wrote. “This prophecy and several others show that He will send foreign enemies to punish America and Britain!” (For proof that America and Britain are the descendants of ancient Israel, read The United States and Britain in Prophecy, by Herbert W. Armstrong.)

China’s ongoing construction in the South China Sea, including its new maritime rescue facility on Fiery Cross Reef, is moving this prophecy toward fulfillment.

Yet Mr. Flurry made plain that this approaching besiegement and war is closely connected to hope-filled news:

All this prophesied destruction is what it will take for God to reach this world! After this, people will be ashamed—and they will get to know God! Ezekiel repeatedly talked about that inspiring conclusion (e.g. Ezekiel 6:7; 7:4; 11:10; 12:20; 13:9; 23:48-49; etc). Yes, there is a lot of bad news when you consider what it takes to get people to the point of knowing God. But ultimately, the outcome is spectacularly good news!

To learn the wondrous details of this “spectacularly good news,” order a free copy of Mr. Flurry’s book Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet.