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Collision course in the South China Sea

US and China must act fast to reduce risks of accidental military clashes

| China

China is expanding an aggressive program of constructing artificial islands in the South China Sea. Since beginning the massive dredging operations in the Johnson South Reef of the Spratly Islands in late 2013, Beijing has built a total of seven such islands.

Think of it as an "ink blot" strategy -- each artificial island becomes a claimed "island," about which Beijing seeks to control a 12-mile territorial sea, a 24-mile contiguous zone, and a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. It has also claimed dozens of extant atolls in addition to the artificial islands. Over time, with enough such "ink blots" gradually connecting, it can significantly buttress its highly controversial claim to ownership of the entire vast South China Sea.

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