Upholding Freedom of Navigation in Troubled Waters And How The Chinese Stole The South China Sea"Ignoring concurrent claims by other South East Asian nations bordering the South China Sea, China had also militerised the entire area by garrisoning troops on reefs and by conducting regular patrols of the contested zone with naval and coast guard vessels. Foreign fishing vessels have been detained, survey ships exploring for oil have been harassed and even foreign warships have been warned to stay away from occupied areas. Skirmishes flare up very once in a while and have lead to fatalities, the most serious happened on Johnson South Reef in 1988 resulting in the death of 64 Vietnamese soldiers.
In the past two and a half years China had up the ante with the commencement of massive land reclamation at multiple reefs in the Spratly Islands creating artificial islands complete with infrastructure for long term military and civilian occupation.
Faced with such naked aggression and shameless land / sea grabbing, most of the smaller maritime nations around the SCS like Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, with the exception of the Philippines, have so far managed only muted responses. Nobody seems to have the courage to even verbally challenge China on its errant behavior. This could be because China is among the top trading partners for many of these countries and is also a military super power on the rise."