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>> Threats of a military build up in the contested South China Sea after Beijing sounded the alarm over a US destroyer. The USS Hopper was running a so-called freedom of navigation patrol last week close to the disputed Scarborough Shoal. Under Donald Trump, Washington has kept up the tactic of sailing close to China's holdings in the area to challenge Beijing's territorial claims.
But it's kept details quiet. China, however, spoke up and vowed to protect its territory. The second time Beijing's publicized a patrol instead of the Pentagon in recent months while painting America as an agitator. As Reuters' Greg Torode reports, Beijing may lean on that story to build up its bases on the water.
>> This time they're going a bit further, saying they will take all necessary measures to defend their sovereignty. They're also saying, through commentaries in the People's Daily and elsewhere that they need to perhaps do more on the military front to defend that sovereignty. So in a way they're creating this narrative, if you like, where they are trying to provide an excuse for the widely feared militarization of the Spratly's.
Which would allow not just the US but a lot of the regional claimants to the South China Sea which is, of course, such a vital trade route.>> Last week, the US military said countering China would be a top priority under Trump, some experts tell Reuters that strategy may have rattled Beijing, and may now be tempted to react.
>> A lot of analysts around the region are suggesting that while the freedom of navigation patrols that the US carries out is a tactic to keep the pressure on China. But it's not really a strategy to stop it's gradual encouragements in the South China Sea. So there is a sense that the US hasn't got a final game plan here.
So China seems to be slowly but surely increasing pressure.>> Beijing's already working to close the gap in firepower with the US Navy. It's added bunkers, hangers, and radars to new runways on the disputed Spratly Islands, where experts expect jet fighter test flights as soon as this year.