The Chinese military appears to be dramatically increasing its presence around a key island in the South China Sea, sending a strong message to Washington.
As Beijing continues its land reclamation projects in the South China Sea, Washington has remained adamant about one island in particular: Scarborough Shoal. Located northeast of the Spratly archipelago, it is claimed by China, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and the US has maintained that any attempts to militarize the shoal would cross a "red line."
While China has maintained a small presence of two or three maritime security vessels around Scarborough Shoal, that number has escalated in the last few weeks. US officials familiar with intelligence reports tell the Washington Free Beacon that there are now over a dozen Chinese ships in the area.
In March, US President Barack Obama met with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, issuing a stern warning against the militarization of Scarborough Shoal, given its strategic proximity to the Philippines.
"The signaling from the US side was that this was serious," a former US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Financial Times.
China’s apparent decision to flout that warning is likely related to last month’s ruling by the Hague-based Court of Arbitration. That decision sided against China’s nine-dash territorial claims in the South China Sea, a ruling that Beijing does not recognize as legitimate.
Earlier this week, satellite images revealed that China is building up its military presence in the Spratly archipelago as well, with new aircraft hangars at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs.
Internet sleuths on Reddit believe that they may have deciphered what Snowden was trying to convey to the public, a message that is sure to create a new wave of concern for the safety of the man responsible for the single most substantial document leak in US history, exposing the NSA’s rampant and illegal campaign of mass international and domestic surveillance.
User Bobanaut, on the bitcoin subreddit, tested Snowden’s message as a private key hash on the bitcoin blockchain, which traced to transactions between two addresses on Sunday. The first transaction logged was in the amount of 0.000911 BTC, suggesting that Snowden was using the cryptocurrency to convey a cryptic 911 distress signal, after the emergency telephone number used in the United States.
"I think the transaction sum of 0.000911 BTC could be a call for help," opined Bobanaut. Other commenters pointed out the statistical impossibility that the 64-character hex code used by Snowden could be an unintentional hash in a bitcoin transaction.
Bobanaut suggests that Snowden’s tweet was conveyed either by him as a signal of distress or possibly by another actor, employing their talents to sew mass confusion as part of an exploit to troll the internet, recreating Snowden’s hash key in a bitcoin transaction.
Most people, however, simply want to be sure that the anti-surveillance hero is alive