Learn To Read Russian In Just 15 Minutes Using This Comic

There are hundreds of languages on our planet, but few are more intimidating or confusing than Russian. Sure, if Russian is your mother tongue then it’s probably really easy to read, but to everyone else it looks incredibly difficult!

Fortunately, South-Korean artist Ryan Estrada and writer Peter Star Northrop have created this educational comic which can apparently teach you how to read Russian in just fifteen minutes! Why not give it a go?

via Learn To Read Russian In Just 15 Minutes Using This Comic.

Teaching With Your Supervisor: Top Ten Tips – Careers Advice – jobs.ac.uk

It is often possible to gain valuable teaching experience during the course of a PhD through teaching with your PhD supervisor. While for PhDs in the Sciences, this might involve demonstrating in your supervisor’s lab, for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences this could well involve coordinating much of the module as well as teaching seminars. Whatever the situation, teaching with your supervisor can pose a challenge at the same time as representing an opportunity. This article aims to provide some suggestions for dealing with teaching with your research supervisor and some tips for overcoming the most frequent challenges.

Try to see your supervisor as a colleague when you are teaching. It can be easy to retain the supervisor-supervisee dynamic in this context, but you won’t really enjoy the experience unless you see them here as a supportive colleague.
Separate the research from the teaching. If you find that your supervisor is asking about your research when you should be talking about teaching, ask politely to keep the two apart. In this environment, you should be judged on your teaching, not how well the PhD is coming along.
Don’t feel obliged to take over the whole module. If your supervisor asks you to take charge of everything, from submitting reports on students to dealing with all of their queries, don’t be afraid to say no. These requests can prove very time-consuming and will end up taking much longer than anticipated.
Never be afraid to ask for help. Whether the problem concerns student attendance or participation, or you don’t understand the material, asking for help is always the best course of action. Ask what they would do in the situation, and always ask for specific advice (‘Can you help me with…’) rather than dealing in generalisations.
Don’t consider yourself as second-best. It can be easy to think that your supervisor is the real ‘expert’ in this situation, and that you can’t compare to their expertise. That you are teaching with your supervisor at all means that you are competent; concentrate on what you add to the student experience by your presence.
Don’t be afraid to innovate. Your part of the course is exactly that: if you have time and are willing, don’t be afraid to apply your own teaching methods and techniques to the existing material.
Seize any opportunities for marking or setting exams. This is a brilliant chance to gain some practical experience in the administration of a module which you can draw on when applying for jobs, so make the most of any openings.
Gain independent feedback on your teaching. Often course feedback forms do not differentiate between the lecturer and seminar tutor; seek feedback from students on your teaching and ask a colleague or mentor (who is not your supervisor) to observe you in action.
Keep your supervisor in the loop. Especially if they are only contributing lectures to the course, your supervisor might not know much about the students or indeed about what you have been doing with them. Regular teaching catch-ups help to make sure that you have a unified teaching strategy.
Keep track of everything you do while teaching. Record any reflections you have on developing the course or any particularly successful teaching techniques you used. You never know…you might be invited to teach the same course again!

via Teaching With Your Supervisor: Top Ten Tips – Careers Advice – jobs.ac.uk.

Shangri La Dialogue: China plays to home audience

There was considerable anticipation around the remarks of US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo, PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff, at the just concluded 14th annual Shangri La Dialogue.

Secretary Carter’s speech was widely praised for its balance, including by many Chinese present. Carter noted  that America has been in the region for decades ensuring stability, and will continue to do so. China was portrayed as a bemusing trouble-maker, throwing the stability of the region into question.

There were some expectations that after last week’s US Navy’s surveillance flight near Fiery Cross Reef with a CNN crew aboard, Carter would make a strong statement of what US actions will come next. The mood in Washington is getting tougher on China, with calls to ‘put skin in the game’ and impose costs on China’s behaviour. Carter’s speech did not give a clear indication of what future US action might look like. He did make two concrete calls to South China Sea claimants: stop land reclamation, and don’t undertake further militarisation.

Will that be enough to change China’s behaviour?

It is unlikely that any claimants will stop ongoing land reclamation at the behest of the US, and it is difficult to imagine China doing so. There is more possibility of getting claimants to agree to not (further) militarise, but it will take more than a call from the US.

For China at least, US responses to its reclamation activities constitutes ‘meddling’, as was made clear in China’s recent Defence White Paper. As such, these US pronouncements fit neatly into China’s powerful ‘persecution by the hegemon’ discourse, the time-honoured response to which is for Beijing to bristle and disregard. Indeed, Sun mentioned several times in his remarks that China would not subjugate itself to hegemony.

In conversation, several participants from Asian countries, including China, felt that the US overstated the challenge Chinese activities in the South China Sea pose to stability in the region. The Indonesian Defence Minister set out his country’s most pressing security concerns, both traditional and non-traditional, and China’s activities did not feature. I got the sense that while South-East Asian countries welcome the US presence in the region, they would like the rebalance to also focus on, for example, countering terrorism, natural disasters, theft of national resources, and narcotics smuggling.

Criticism of China had begun before Admiral Sun even reached the podium, largely for the delegation’s lack of seniority. China has not sent a ministerial-ranked representative except in 2011. This is certainly unfortunate, but does not represent disdain for the Shangri-La Dialogue. Rather, it reflects the lack of international experience among high-level officials, and the anxiety about engaging openly with unscripted questions, of which there were plenty.

Sun’s scripted comments focused on China’s role in providing global public goods such as multilateral humanitarian interventions and anti-piracy. He said China’s construction on islands and reefs is ‘mainly’ for improving their functions and improving the living conditions of people stationed there. He mentioned many times China’s commitment to friendship, sincerity, faith, and amity. While not incendiary, the message was clear: the South China Sea is ours, and we’ll do what we want there.

Lack of detail meant that the Q&A session was heavy with questions asking Sun to clarify China’s position, for example on the nine-dash line, international law, and freedom of navigation. Lowy Non-Resident Fellow Bonnie Glaser asked Sun to explain how Chinese military instructing a US aircraft to leave what China described as a ‘military alert zone’, but which international law would describe as international air space, did not constitute a challenge to freedom of navigation. Sun spent much of his response noting that he did not have time to answer fully, and did not address most of the questions raised.

Sun’s remarks, and his (non-)responses to questions, were unsurprising and therefore disappointing. China missed an opportunity to address international concerns about the South China Sea. Sun did not make China sound like a confident and sophisticated international actor with a genuine grasp of the concerns of the region.

But this would not have been the primary purpose of the speech from the Chinese perspective. What constitutes success for China here is how the domestic population understands the event, and Sun’s repetition of principles and examples of Chinese global responsibility will be well received in China. Likewise, the critiques of China’s activities in the South China Sea will be read as typical. It is unlikely that China will reflect any more deeply on the approbation it is receiving than it did before.

Both Carter and Sun emphasised calm and a desire for peace, and that success for any in the current international circumstances depends on success for many. China calls it a ‘community of common destiny’; Carter referred to ‘rising and prospering together’. However, despite this common language, the US and China are not really listening to each other or getting any closer to understanding each other’s concerns. This is a problem when mutual strategic mistrust is recognised as a key risk factor for misperception and miscalculation.

As the US increases its tough talk, and China continues to reclaim land at an extraordinary pace and scale, both would be wise to pause and consider carefully the longer-term implications of their actions and rhetoric.

via Shangri La Dialogue: China plays to home audience.

Why Japan should put boots on the ground on the Senkaku Islands | Strife

Halfway between Japan and Taiwan are the the Senkaku Islands. They are claimed by Beijing under the name Diaoyu and by Taipei with the label Diaoyutai. The islands are prime real estate from a strategic perspective. Despite rumblings to the contrary, Tokyo seems to be sticking to her policy not to deploy ground troops on these islands. This is usually portrayed as a goodwill gesture, an olive branch extended to China, showing how Japan is ready to negotiate in good faith and how she does not see a military solution as the only possible outcome of the territorial dispute over the islands between China and Taiwan. This is a view supported by the mainstream media and many observers.

But China is keeping the pressure on the islands, with constant incidents featuring coastguard (and other state) vessels and trawlers entering Japanese territorial waters around them. And there is not much evidence of any attempt by Beijing to negotiate in good faith. This is in contrast to the approach taken by Taipei, which has reached a fisheries agreement with Tokyo, a practical implementation of President Ma’s East China Sea Peace Initiative.

The policy question now on the table is: should Japan continue to refrain from permanently deploying land forces in these disputed islands? Or should Tokyo instead base ground troops there? While legitimate and considered arguments have been put forward to defend the continued lack of such a military presence, a comprehensive examination of the situation demands a look at both alternatives. The purpose of this short article is to explain and make the case for a permanent land deployment. In particular, the article deals with the impact on the situation of China’s increasing resort to its aerial assets.

When contemplating the different future scenarios involving the Senkaku Islands, we should bear in mind that in addition to conventional operations to invade them, Beijing may land troops on one or more islands, without opening fire on Japanese forces, in order to prompt negotiations on her terms and dare Tokyo to be the first to resort to lethal force to recover them. This could take the form of an airborne landing, against which Japanese Coast Guard units and the rules of engagement (ROEs) under which they operate are not prepared. Helicopters could be deployed conventionally, or clandestinely from hangars in converted trawlers. An incident in December 2012, involving the violation of Japan’s airspace, showed that the reaction time may well not be enough to prevent such an assault. “Chinese aircraft had already left the islands’ territorial air space by the time the Japanese fighters arrived on the scene”.

Furthermore, China may resort to “civilian activists”, who have already taken part in past incidents, including a balloon flight last year, or a mixture of special forces and unarmed civilians. To date the latter have passively accepted arrest and deportation, but they could be employed in other ways.

For years, and in particular over the last decade, Chinese coastguard vessels, with the cooperation of trawlers, have been provoking their Japanese counterparts, repeatedly violating Tokyo’s territorial waters. In response, Japanese vessels have sought to block the intruders, leading to some ramming incidents. While this has, to a large extent, become part of the East Asian landscape, also occurring in the South China Sea, the advent of a third dimension – of air assets seeking to probe Japanese defences – could be destabilizing. There is a key difference between ships and aircraft: while one can physically block boats without sinking them, using other vessels, it is much more difficult to prevent the passage of an aircraft without downing it. Tools such as water cannons do not work against planes. Thus, the current ROEs are inadequate to prevent an airborne assault on the Senkaku Islands.

The problem goes beyond Japanese ROEs, and may potentially impact Tokyo’s alliance with Washington DC. The United States is treaty-bound to help Japan defend herself, not attack another country. After some doubts, it is now explicitly accepted that the Treaty covers the Senkaku islands. But in practice the bloodless occupation by Chinese forces of one or more islands could stretch the US-Japanese alliance, making it more difficult for Washington to support Tokyo. Washington is bound to help Tokyo defend territories “administered” by Japan, would a lost island still fall under this category? How long does it take for defensive operations to become offensive?

Although the US military is helping Japan develop her own amphibious capabilities, Washington has sometimes appeared reluctant to conduct drills featuring the retaking of an island, seen as too provocative in Beijing’s eyes. Perhaps it is in recognition of this that, in order to lessen the scope for miscalculation, the recently-released Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation explicitly state that “if the need arises, the Self-Defense Forces will conduct operations to retake an island”.

If the only possible scenario was a conventional seaborne invasion of the Senkaku Islands, it may perhaps make sense to stress a naval ring around the islands, to the detriment of their static defence by means of ground troops. It may make sense to stress offensive versus defensive capabilities, and to avoid tying down too many assets and personnel in a fixed deployment. However, as the saying goes, the enemy has a choice, and history shows that he has a nasty habit of failing to cooperate by doing what he is expected to do.

The same applies to the case at hand. There is no reason why Beijing has to stick to the strategy it has been following over the last decade. It is thus necessary to consider all scenarios, including first of all the possibility of an aerial assault, and second an operation by civilian,or mixed military and civilian forces. In other words, China may either get to the islands by air, thus bypassing the Japanese Coastguard, or send activists (perhaps in conjunction with military personnel), to occupy them. Current ROEs are not prepared to deal with either contingency, and in both cases the lack of a permanent land presence offers an opening for Beijing.

The lack of a “tripwire” – troops on the ground – makes it easier for Beijing to miscalculate: to invade in the hope that Japan will not react and that Washington will not only fail to support her ally but even pressure Tokyo to submit. With troops on the ground, invading means starting a war. Without troops on the ground, it may be seen merely as notching up tension. Democracies often find it difficult to shoot first, and a bloodless unopposed landing may prompt myriad voices to seek appeasement, under the guise of avoiding escalation.

Furthermore, such an operation would not be taking place in a vacuum, but be part of a much wider exercise in propaganda, designed to confound and divide Japanese public opinion and decision-makers, and their Allied counterparts. Beijing may seek to appear “reasonable” and open to bilateral negotiations, while vetoing any possible UN involvement and slamming third parties. She could play the “far away, no essential interests involved” card before the American public. There could even be proposals for an interim joint administration scheme, a mutual withdrawal of forces, or others, designed to effectively remove any Japanese presence from the islands, thus opening the way for their later takeover.

Despite the complexity involved in responding to an occupation of the Senkaku Islands, both in Japan and the US, it is notable that over the last few decades Japanese public opinion has gradually hardened towards China. This makes it unlikely that Tokyo would just accept a Chinese invasion, thus making the retaking of the Islands a political imperative.

Many visitors to Japan often focus on the more informal or fun aspects of the country, from comic books (manga) to extravagant fashion, usually grouped under the label “kawaii”, loosely translated as “cute”. However, beneath beneath this Kawaii façade, or rather coexisting with this, there is another Japan, one with little appetite for appeasement. It is doubtful that any Japanese government would survive a failure to react to a Chinese invasion of the Senkaku Islands, and it is no coincidence to see Prime Minister Shinzo Abe incorporate the Falklands in his narrative.

Therefore, in order to promote peace and reduce the risks of war, Japan should pursue the opposite policy to the one it is currently following. This means permanently deploying ground troops, reconsidering the ROEs under which Japanese forces in the area operate (with particular attention to air incursions), and developing the economy and infrastructure of the Senkaku Islands, thereby linking them more closely at all levels to the Japanese mainland. Given that a landing may feature civilians, in addition to conventional troops, it is necessary to have a police presence, or military units able to deal with both an armed and an unarmed invasion.

This would send a strong signal to Beijing not to expect a bloodless invasion to be successful, thus reducing the scope for adventure. China is less likely to attack if it means drawing first blood and unequivocally appearing as the aggressor. A permanent deployment would also reduce the chances of success for any landing, thus avoiding the need for a much more costly (in blood and treasure) amphibious counterattack. What’s more, it would in no unceratin terms tell Washington and other regional allies like New Delhi, Manila and Hanoi, that Japan is not caving in to Chinese pressure. At the same time it would reassure Taiwan that her flank is secure. By incorporating the Falklands in his political discourse, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already made it clear that Japan is not for turning, and the next logical step is to implement a new policy on the ground, leaving as little room as possible for a dangerous miscalculation.


Alex Calvo, a guest professor at Nagoya University (Japan), focuses on security and defence policy, international law, and military history in the Indian-Pacific Ocean Region. He tweets at Alex__Calvo and his work can be found here.  

via Why Japan should put boots on the ground on the Senkaku Islands | Strife.

Chinese Takeaway: PM Modi in Mongolia – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

With barely three million people deep inside the Eurasian steppe and sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia is an unlikely destination for Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week. China will certainly loom large over Modi’s three-nation tour, beginning Thursday. For, Modi is trying to move the Sino-Indian relationship out of the stasis that it finds itself in. Given his focus on “Make in India” and attracting foreign direct investment, Modi would want to end India’s prolonged political neglect of South Korea, one of the world’s leading economies, located at the heart northeast Asia. But Mongolia? Why has Modi chosen to be India’s first prime minister to visit Mongolia?

Some point to Mongolia’s potential as a source of natural uranium and other valuable minerals for India. But New Delhi already has agreements on uranium supplies with many countries from where it is easier to ship uranium than the landlocked Mongolia. Others would see rivalry with China as the driver behind Modi’s brief sojourn in Mongolia. If China spends so much political energy in cultivating India’s neighbours in the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean, it has been argued, Delhi should be doing the same on China’s periphery.

C. Raja Mohan

NONRESIDENT SENIOR ASSOCIATE
SOUTH ASIA PROGRAM
More from this author…
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@MOHANCRAJA
Mongolia is indeed a very sensitive neighbour of China, and the investment of the PM’s time in Mongolia seems worthwhile. To be sure, there has been a geopolitical dimension to India’s engagement with Mongolia. Over the last few years there, India and Mongolia have steadily expanded their defence exchanges and security cooperation.
But there are also limits to any Indian powerplay in Mongolia. With just two neighbours, with whom Mongolia has had difficult relations in the past, Ulaanbaatar has no interest in provoking either Russia or China by undertaking activities hostile to them. Like all small states with large neighbours, Mongolia wants a measure of “strategic autonomy” from them. The country, however, carefully calibrates its partnerships with other major powers. It also had to carefully circumscribe its relations with the Dalai Lama amid Chinese protestations.

Over the last quarter of a century, Mongolia has diversified its relations with an approach that is called the “third neighbour” policy. Originally developed vis-a-vis the United States in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, Mongolia has sought active cooperation with Germany, Europe, Japan and Korea. Ulaanbaatar has also taken to multilateralism, regional and international. Mongolia holds annual multilateral military exercises on its soil called the “Khaan Quest”, and has participated in UN Peacekeeping Operations. These activities have already given Mongolia an interesting global personality.

SPIRITUAL NEIGHBOUR
For Mongolia, India is more than a third neighbour — it is the “spiritual neighbour”. Buddhism travelled to Mongolia in different periods from India and Tibet to emerge as the dominant religious faith over the last two millennia. It has survived the Stalinist-era oppression of religion, when Mongolia became part of the Soviet sphere of influence after the Bolshevik Revolution.

India was the first country outside the socialist bloc to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia in 1955. Reviving its religious heritage and celebrating its new democratic orientation have become the major attributes of Mongolia after the 1990s, and India figures prominently in both domains. If the Mongolian state has put special emphasis on reaffirming the nation’s cultural identity, it might have found the right man in Modi.

During his travels over the last year — whether it was offering prayers to Lord Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Nepal, meditating at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan or visiting the Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka — Modi has put shared religious heritage with neighbours at the centre of his regional engagement. Mongolia, then, offers many possibilities for Modi’s cultural diplomacy.

DHARMA CONNECTION
Modi, who used to express his interest in Buddhism when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, has now lent it a special mission in shaping the future of the subcontinent and Asia. Speaking in Delhi earlier this month on the occasion of Buddha Purnima, Modi said, “Without Buddha, the 21st century will not be Asia’s century.”

Modi has talked about the possibilities of restoring historic Buddhist sites in the subcontinent and promoting tourism by integrating them across borders through modern transportation facilities. If spiritualism and economic development are presented as two sides of the same coin by Modi, his three-nation tour this week will see Buddhism at the very forefront of India’s new Asian outreach.

This article was originally published in Indian Express.

via Chinese Takeaway: PM Modi in Mongolia – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Images show Vietnam South China Sea reclamation, China defends own

By David Brunnstrom and Ben Blanchard

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – Newly released images show Vietnam has carried out significant land reclamation at two sites in the disputed South China Sea, though the scale and pace is dwarfed by that of China, a U.S. research institute said.

In response, China condemned Vietnam’s actions, and said its work in the region was part of an obligation to the international community to improve navigation safety and contribute to science and research, including building observation platforms to monitor sea levels.

Satellite images shared with Reuters by Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), show an expansion of the land area of Vietnamese-controlled Sand Cay and West London Reef in the Spratly archipelago and the addition of buildings.

Mira Rapp-Hooper, director of CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (http://amti.csis.org/), said the work included military installations and appeared to have started before China began a flurry of reclamation projects last year.

The photographs were taken by satellite imagery firm

Digital Globe between 2010 and April 30 this year.

“On one site, it has constructed a significant new area that was formerly under water and at another it has used land reclamation to add acreage to an existing island,” Rapp-Hoopersaid.

Vietnam’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but routinely says it has sufficient legal and historical evidence to support its claims in the Spratlys.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries had been carrying out such reclamations for a long time on what she said were Chinese islands being illegally occupied.

“We demand that the relevant countries stop all their activities which infringe upon China’s sovereignty and rights,” she told a daily news briefing.

INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS

Hua added that China’s building work was partly to better fulfill its international obligations, including as part of a deal agreed at a UNESCO meeting in Paris in 1987.

There, she said, China was entrusted to build five out of 200 sea level observation platforms, including on the Spratlys.

“The scale of China’s construction should be commensurate with its responsibilities and obligations as a major country,” Hua added.

The speed of recent Chinese reclamation work has alarmed its neighbors and the United States, which sees it as a potential threat to the status quo in a region through which $5 trillion of sea-borne trade passes each year.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

New Vietnamese military facilities at Sand Cay appeared to include defensive positions and gun emplacements, and new buildings visible on West London Reef could also have military applications, Rapp-Hooper said.

“Strictly speaking, these photos show that China is right, “she said, “but we can safely say that the scope and scale of what China has undertaken is totally unprecedented and dwarfs Vietnam’s activities many times over.”

She said the images showed Vietnam had reclaimed about65,000 square meters (699,654 square feet) of land at West London Reef and 21,000 square meters (226,042 square feet) at Sand Cay. This compared to 900,000 square meters (9.6 million square feet) reclaimed by China at a single reef, Fiery Cross.

Rapp-Hooper said satellite images showed that since about March 2014, China had conducted reclamation work at seven site sin the Spratlys and was constructing a military-sized air strip on one artificial island and possibly a second on another.

She said Vietnam already had an airstrip on the Spratlys.

The U.S. State Department said it had “consistently called on all claimants, including Vietnam, to avoid taking unilateral actions that raise tensions, such as large-scale land reclamation, in disputed areas.”

A department spokesperson said the pace and scale of China’s recent reclamation work far outstripped that of other claimants.

The official said that before January 2014, China had only reclaimed about five hectares, but this had since soared to 2,000 acres (800 hectares), expanding the acreage on outposts it occupies by over four hundred times. Vietnam had reclaimed about 60 acres (24 hectares) since January 2009, the official said.

U.S. President Barack Obama last month accused China of” flexing its muscles” to advance its maritime claims and Washington has been helping countries in the region, including Vietnam, strengthen their defense capabilities.

(Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato in Manila and Martin Petty in Hanoi; Editing by Warren Strobel, Stuart Grudgings, Dean Yates and Mike Collett-White)

via Images show Vietnam South China Sea reclamation, China defends own.

South China Sea: China placing mobile artillery on reclaimed island, US says – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

PHOTO: The US Navy has released footage purporting to show Chinese vessels during outcrops into islands. (Reuters/US Navy)

The United States says China has placed mobile artillery weapons systems on a reclaimed island in the disputed South China Sea, a development that Republican senator John McCain has called “disturbing and escalatory”.

Brent Colburn, a Pentagon spokesman travelling with defence secretary Ash Carter, said the United States was aware of the weapons.

Senator McCain, chairman of the Senate’s armed services committee, said the move would escalate tensions but not lead to conflict.

“It is a disturbing development and escalatory development, one which heightens our need to make the Chinese understand that their actions are in violation of international law and their actions are going to be condemned by everyone in the world,” he said at a news conference in Ho Chi Minh City.

“We are not going to have a conflict with China but we can take certain measures which will be a disincentive to China to continue these kinds of activities,” he said.

In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had no information on the weapons.

Chinese ships busy transforming outcrops into islands

US officials said Chinese dredging work had added some 2,000 acres to five outposts in the resource-rich Spratly islands in the South China Sea, including 1,500 acres this year.

It has released surveillance plane footage showing dredgers and other ships busily turning remote outcrops into islands with runways and harbours.

Mr Carter called on Wednesday for an immediate halt to land reclamation in the South China Sea and was expected to touch on the issue of maritime security and freedom of navigation again in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in Singapore.

China says the islands are in sovereign Chinese territory.

Pentagon officials said efforts by China and other claimant countries to turn reefs into islands in the Spratlys undermines international law and raises questions about their future plans and intentions.

“It creates an air of uncertainty in a system that has been based on certainty and agreed-upon norms,” said Mr Colburn, the Pentagon spokesman.

“So anything that steps outside of the bounds of international law we see as a concern because we don’t know what the … motivations are behind that. We think it should concern everyone in the region.”

Asian military attaches and analysts said the placement of mobile artillery pieces appeared to be a symbol of intent, rather than any major development that could tilt any balance of power.

“It is interesting and a point to watch. But it should be remembered they’ve already got potentially a lot more firepower on the naval ships that they routinely move through the South China Sea,” one military attache said.

China claims most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the vital trade route.

All claimants except Brunei have military fortifications in the Spratlys

via South China Sea: China placing mobile artillery on reclaimed island, US says – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).