Two U.S. officials exclusively tell Reuters China is nearly finished building structures on artificial islands in the South China Sea that could house missiles, in what may be an early political test of U.S. President Donald Trump. Ryan Brooks reports.
A test of Donald Trump's hard line on the South China Sea. Two U.S. officials exclusively tell Reuters Beijing is almost finished building nearly two dozen structures on their artificial islands, and they look built to house weapons, likely long-range surface-to-air missiles. They say that would expand China's air defense umbrella over the islands. That begs the question of how President Trump will react. His administration calls this island building illegal. The officials say the buildings where China's already laid out military-length airstrips could be considered an military escalation. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson angered China last month after he said it should be stopped from building its South China Sea islands. He compared Beijing's island claims to Russia taking Crimea from Ukraine. Since then both Tillerson and Trump have walked back their language with Trump even pledging to honor the U.S. "One China" policy this month in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Officials said the new structures don't pose a significant threat to American forces in the region- given how visible and vulnerable they are. They say instead, it appears to be a political test of the waters to see how far Trump will go.