(National Sentinel) Militarized: Quietly, the Chinese have been fortifying and militarizing the artificial atolls they have built in the South China Sea, even as Bejing continues to grow its navy in its quest to control Asia.

In fact, as Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific (INDOPAC) Command, the threat China poses to stability in the region is growing by the month.

Beijing’s militarization of the atolls has included numerous surface-to-air missile batteries, turning “what was a great wall of sand just three years ago [into] a great wall of SAMs,” Davidson said on Saturday.

China has been increasingly militarizing the vital commercial waterway for years, but since the Trump administration came into office Beijing’s navy has become increasingly aggressive in challenging American and allied warships and aircraft operating in what are international waters but which China claims. That includes a near-collision of U.S. and Chinese destroyers in September.

China has built and militarized at least three islands in the South China Sea, essentially forming a southward extension of land-based defenses in a tactic known as Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD).

And the Chinese naval fleets continue to grow. Reports say that Beijing is completing construction of one warship and one submarine per month, on average. Also, China has militarized its Coast Guard after transferring control of it to the navy earlier this year.

How will the U.S. keep up?

“We need a bigger Navy,” Davidson said, adding that Navy leaders have backed POTUS Donald Trump’s quest for a 355-ship fleet. As the Chinese fleet continues to grow, he told me, “the capacity concern is going to become a greater concern in years to come.”

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