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Seize the Sea

It seems that every time one turns around, there's another international crisis brewing somewhere. One that's been slowly building up steam (to continue with the cooking metaphor) is the dispute over the South China Sea. China is laying claim to a large part of it, and the reason is obvious: This waterway sees more than $5 trillion of trade a year. But the Philippines disputes that claim and, in fact, has brought the whole thing to The Hague for adjudication. The tribunal's decision, which may come in the next month or so, isn't enforceable, but it could make a difference, and now all of a sudden the major players (and this includes, of course, the United States on the side of the Philippines) are working hard to gain adherents. There has also been more military presence in the area of late, and China has over the last few years built up more than 3,000 acres of land on some of the sea's islands and reefs. "If you think in terms of a chess board, everyone is moving pieces around in anticipation of the next phase of events in the South China Sea emerging from that PCA [Permanent Court of Arbitration] finding," explains Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute: and
   Above-water land isn't the only thing the Chinese are working on in the South China Sea. They have plans to build an underwater, manned deep-sea (as in 10,000 feet down) platform from which to mine for minerals and also, some suspect, to use for military purposes:

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