China continues expanding its South China Sea island fortifications

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON 

WASHINGTON (AP) — China is expanding its outposts in the South China Sea to include stationing for ships and potential airfields as part of its “aggressive” effort to exert sovereignty, the U.S. intelligence chief said Thursday.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was speaking at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats. His comments underscore U.S. concern over land reclamation activities that could fuel tensions between China and its neighbors over disputed islands and reefs.

“Although China is looking for stable ties with the United States it’s more willing to accept bilateral and regional tensions in pursuit of its interests, particularly on maritime sovereignty issues,” Clapper said. He described China’s claims traced by a so-called nine-dash line — a rough boundary covering more than 80 percent of the South China Sea — as “exorbitant.”

The U.S. is not a claimant of territory in the South China Sea but does claim a national interest in the peaceful resolution of the disputes in a region crucial for world trade. China says its territorial claims have a historical basis and objects to what it consider U.S. meddling.

Sen. John McCain, the committee’s Republican chairman, displayed commercial satellite imagery showing expansion of the Chinese-occupied Gaven Reef in the Spratly Islands in the past year. He said China’s expansion could allow it to employ weaponry, including anti-air and other capabilities.

Gavin Reef

On the left is a satellite photo of Gavin Reef taken on March 31, 2014. On the right is a satellite photo taken of the same reef on November 11, 2014. © CNES 2014, Distribution Airbus DS/HIS

Clapper said China was still in a construction phase so it was unclear what weaponry or forces it might deploy there. He said such Chinese activities in the past year-and-a-half, combined with oil drilling near disputed islands that caused conflict with Vietnam, was a “worrying trend.”

The Center for Strategic and International Studies last week said Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have over the years modified existing land masses in the South China Sea, and the Philippines is planning to upgrade an airport and pier on an island it occupies. But among the claimants, China is unusual in how it has been “dramatically changing the size and structure of physical land features,” the think tank said.

China has had a troop and supply garrison at Gaven Reef since 2003, but it began significant construction there last year, building a new artificial island, more than 18 acres in size. The main building on the new island appears to have an anti-aircraft tower, the center said.

Related Stories

  1. Philippines protests China land reclamation at another reef Associated Press
  2. China to project power from artificial islands in South China Sea Reuters
  3. China doing ‘large scale’ reclamation in disputed islands: media Reuters

Related here on Peace and Freedom:

.

Now, Fiery Cross Reef has been transformed into an artificial island at least 3,000 yards long that experts say is big enough to include an airstrip and could become a Chinese command and control center for military operations in the area. Seen here in November.
Fiery Cross Reef has been transformed into an artificial island at least 3,000 yards long that experts say is big enough to include an airstrip and could become a Chinese command and control center for military operations in the area. Seen here in November. IHS Jane’s

Photographs show China building on disputed South China Sea islands using reclamation to enlarge islands for ports and airstrips

Above: A before and after picture of China’s reclamation work on one islet in the South China Sea. Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines claim many of the islands now claimed by China. The United States has called on China to stop the land reclamation project that could be large enough to accommodate an airstrip. Beijing has called those remarks “irresponsible”, signaling that it would firmly reject proposals by any country to freeze any activity that may raise tension.

Related:

 

 

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: