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CNN: Military bases and submarines: What it's like to dive in the South China Sea
The Spratly Islands are a nebula of biological wonder -- an archipelago of atolls and reefs that support 600 coral species and 6,000 fish species -- including huge schools of batfish, bumphead parrotfish, scalloped hammerhead sharks, and dolphins.
But they are also located in one of the most contested stretches of water in the world -- the South China Sea -- and the island chain is now is home to some 15 military bases.
China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines have all reclaimed land in the Spratlys and built airstrips that can accommodate military aircraft but it's China's island-building that has grabbed the most headlines.
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WNU Editor: So far the impact has been minimal ....
.... Since the beginning of 2014, China reclaimed more than 3,000 acres of land centering on seven reefs, according to the US. By contrast, the other claimants have reclaimed just 100 acres over 45 years.
But this is a trend that shows no signs of decreasing, and more to the point .... it is intensifying. Where is Greenpeace when you want them.