Satellite images show China is building an island on a reef in the disputed Spratly Islands large enough to accommodate what could be its first offshore airstrip in the South China Sea, a leading defence publication said.
The construction has stoked concern that China may be converting disputed territory in the mineral-rich archipelago into military installations, adding to tensions in waters also claimed by Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei.
Defence and security analysts IHS Jane’s said images it had obtained showed the Chinese-built island on the Fiery Cross Reef to be at least 3000 meters long and 200-300 metres wide, which it noted is “large enough to construct a runway and apron”.
The building work flies in the face of US calls for a freeze in provocative activity in the South China Sea, one of Asia’s biggest security issues. Concern is growing about an escalation in disputes even as claimants work to establish a code of conduct to resolve them.
Dredgers were also creating a harbour to the east of the reef “that would appear to be large enough to receive tankers and major surface combatants,” it said.
The land reclamation project was China’s fourth in the Spratly Islands in the last 12 to 18 months and by far the largest, IHS Jane’s said. It based its findings on images taken on August 8 and November 14, showing that dredgers had created a land mass almost the entire length of the reef.
Beijing has rejected Washington’s call for all parties to halt activity in the disputed waters to ease tensions, saying it can build whatever its wants in the South China Sea.Source: Sydney Morning Herald – China building South China Sea island big enough for airstrip, says IHS Jane’s
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