China build­ing run­way on dis­puted is­lands: re­ports

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE -

China is rapidly build­ing an airstrip on an ar­ti­fi­cial is­land in dis­puted South China Sea wa­ters, re­cent satel­lite pic­tures show, po­ten­tially ramp­ing up ten­sions with sev­eral Southeast Asian neigh­bors.

Fiery Cross in the Spratly Is­lands was lit­tle more than a reef when China be­gan land recla­ma­tion works to turn it into an is­land in late 2014.

Now satel­lite images taken last week by DigitalGlobe and shown on the web­site of the Wash­ing­ton-based Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (CSIS) show the run­way — es­ti­mated at 3.1 kilo­me­ters (1.9 miles) in to­tal — more than one-third com­plete, it says.

When in op­er­a­tion, it says, it will be able to “ac­com­mo­date al­most any type of air­craft that China would want to land.”

“Be­fore this con­struc­tion China lacked the re­fu­el­ing and re­sup­ply ca­pa­bil­i­ties to reach the south­ern part of the South China Sea,” it added.

“While they have not yet been built, Fiery Cross should be big enough to ac­com­mo­date han­gar fa­cil­i­ties for Chi­nese air­craft.”

Pic­tures taken less than four weeks ear­lier showed two sec­tions of 468 me­ters and 200 me­ters were un­der con­struc­tion, CSIS said, demon­strat­ing the speed of the works.

On Wed­nes­day, de­fense jour­nal IHS Jane’s re­ported that pic­tures taken by Air­bus De­fence and Space on March 23 showed a sec­tion more than 500 me­ters long and 50 me­ters wide.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, on the ba­sis of lines on Chi­nese maps pub­lished in the 1940s and lock­ing it into dis­putes with sev­eral Southeast Asian neigh­bours.

Its is­land-build­ing in the Spratlys, also claimed in whole or part by the Philip­pines and Viet­nam among oth­ers, has been seen as part of an at­tempt to as­sert its ter­ri­to­rial claims by es­tab­lish­ing phys­i­cal facts in the wa­ter.

Fiery Cross is known as Yong­shu to Bei­jing, Kag­iti­nan to Manila, and Da Chu Thap to Hanoi.

Images pub­lished this month on the web­site of the CSIS also showed a flotilla of Chi­nese ves­sels dredg­ing sand onto a fea­ture known as Mis­chief Reef.

That reef is about 100 kilo­me­ters (60 miles) from the south­west­ern Philip­pine is­land of Palawan, and roughly 1,000 kilo­me­ters from

the near­est ma­jor Chi­nese land­mass.

In­ter­na­tional Out­cry

Viet­nam, the Philip­pines and Malaysia have as­serted their own claims in the area by sta­tion­ing troops in the Spratlys and build­ing airstrips there from the 1970s on­wards.

Philip­pine de­fense min­istry spokesman Peter Galvez told AFP Fri­day the airstrip would have “eco­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal, diplo­matic, de­fense,” and other im­pli­ca­tions for the Philip­pines, but did not elab­o­rate.

“As we have said be­fore, all th­ese de­vel­op­ments will have a grave im­pact across mul­ti­ple di­men­sions of na­tional se­cu­rity in the im­me­di­ate to the long term,” he said.

Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesman Hong Lei, in a Fri­day brief­ing, main­tained that China’s is­land con­struc­tion was “mainly for the sake of im­prov­ing the rel­e­vant func­tions of th­ese is­lands and reefs, and im­prov­ing the con­di­tions of work­ers on the is­lands and reefs.”

Such con­struc­tion was also aimed at “im­prov­ing search and res­cue, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, se­cu­rity of sea lanes, and safety of fish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties,” he added.

Viet­namese for­eign min­istry spokesman Le Hai Binh said Thurs­day that con­struc­tion by other coun­tries in the Spratlys with­out per­mis­sion from Hanoi was “to­tally il­le­gal and base­less.”

China’s moves in the re­gion should spark fear around the world, with mil­i­tary con­flict pos­si­ble, Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino told AFP on Tues­day.

Bei­jing quickly dis­missed his com­ments as “ground­less.”

AFP

This hand­out photo taken on April 11 by satel­lite im­agery provider DigitalGlobe and re­leased to AFP by the Asia Mar­itime Trans­parency Ini­tia­tive depart­ment at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (CSSI) think tank shows a satel­lite im­age of what is claimed to be an un­der-con­struc­tion airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Is­lands in the dis­puted South China Sea.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.