Beijing is hard at work in the South China Sea.
New satellite images show fresh construction is underway on the Paracel Islands, north of the Spratly Islands, which are the major focus of a heated territory dispute between several Asian countries.
The construction work is happening on North Island—part of a reef, which acts as a protective screen around another small, yet vital, island known as Woody, where China’s been known to place missile launchers and jet fighters in the past.
One of the new pictures shows land-clearing moving at a rapid pace to make way for possible military installations, a move sure to provoke Vietnam, which also claims the Paracels.
Washington is no stranger to China’s rapid rise in the South China Sea, and wants to keep China in check.
But in this situation, things could play conveniently into Beijing’s hands.
That’s because it’s essentially a dispute with Hanoi and is seen as less provocative than carrying out work in the Spratlys.
While the Trump administration has talked tough on the South China Sea, experts said the new developments aren’t likely to get much of a reaction out of the United States.
As the issue of North Korea comes to a head, the disputed waters look to be lower on the agenda.