Geopolitical tensions in Asia show no sign of abating as new Chinese activity in disputed maritime territories reinforce Beijing's commitment to military expansion at all costs, experts said.
Beijing is building an island capable of hosting an airstrip near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, its largest project in the region thus far, defense publication IHS Jane's said on Friday.
"China believes the South China Sea is theirs; they're not willing to negotiate it with their neighbors," said Michael Raska, research fellow in the Military Transformations Program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
"China is not heeding demands of the U.S. and Southeast Asia to freeze activity because its position is clear: Territorially, Beijing believes it will control the South China Sea. If there are issues, they will deal with it country by country on a bilateral basis, so a multilateral approach with ASEAN members is out of the picture for them," said Amarjit Singh, senior analyst, country risk at IHS.
The move comes amid signs of improving relations between China and its neighbors. During last week's G-20 summit, President Xi Jinping expressed his dedication to upholding regional peace through dialogue and consultation. Meanwhile, his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit a few days earlier was heralded as a diplomatic breakthrough.
China and Japan are in the midst of a long-standing feud over a separate group of islands in the East China Sea, which has greater potential for military conflict than the South China Sea, according to IHS' Singh.