HONOLULU — China has claimed a key new territory in its efforts to expand its reach in the Pacific region this week, building an artificial island inside Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The presence of Chinese dredging crews on a shoal in the middle of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet headquarters was first reported to Naval Intelligence in early February. But the information was not shared with the Chief of Naval Operations, the Secretary of Defense, or the State Department because the Chief of Naval Intelligence was not told about it because he doesn’t actually have a security clearance.
Adm. Harry B. Harris, Commander in Chief, Pacific, says the Navy is “cautiously optimistic” that China will stand down.
“Secretary of State Kerry has assured me his office is working on a ‘sternly worded’ note,” Harris said. “We are exploring every avenue to make it clear to China that we are not okay with this.”
“They have to respect our 12 mile limits, and we’d better not catch them doing any fishing.”
China’s construction of artificial islands has come under intense scrutiny following this week’s decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to reject China’s claims to the South China Sea, Vietnam, the Philippines, and most of Australia’s wine-producing regions.
China was also trying to claim it owned San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City, since it had put forth a copyright claim on the name “Chinatown.”
Cdr. Liam Phillips, commanding officer of the USS Gabrielle Giffords, says his crew is ready to “circle the encroaching island impotently” until CINCPAC “can assemble a freedom of navigation operation — essentially, a large group of ships that everyone hopes won’t get shot, but kind of hopes they do, too.”
A spokesman for China’s Navy could not be reached for comment, since he was too busy taking photographs of women on the beach from what is being called Panda Harbor.