In the South China Sea dispute, Australia remains trapped in the past. Since Australia developed its strategy, China has built six large islands — three substantial air bases and three sizeable electronic surveillance installations.

With this, China effectively has moved 1100km south towards Australia and deep into the geographic heart of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The new facilities’ size allows China to deploy off northern Borneo an air combat force larger and more capable than any current ASEAN air force. China can easily enforce an air defence identification zone across the South China Sea.

More worryingly, China for the first time poses a realistic air threat to Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and all of Borneo.

With these new air bases, China today militarily dominates the central ASEAN region.

China has a significant ability to intimate, bully and cajole ASEAN in times of peace and in times of crisis, and to win any limited regional war that erupts.

Please click here to read the full “The South China Sea’s worsening strategic dilemmas” article in The Australian by Griffith Asia Institute Visiting Fellow Peter Layton.