South China Sea: Taiwan asks Google to blur images showing new facilities at Itu Aba

Reuters

By J.R. Wu

Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Wednesday it is asking Google to blur satellite images showing what experts say appear to be new military installations on Itu Aba, Taipei’s sole holding in the disputed South China Sea.

The revelation of new military-related construction could raise tensions in the contested waterway, where China’s building of airstrips and other facilities has worried other claimants and the United States.

The images seen on Google Earth show four three-pronged structures sitting in a semi-circle just off the northwestern shoreline of Itu Aba, across from an upgraded airstrip and recently constructed port that can dock 3,000-ton frigates.

Taiping island, also known as Itu Aba, in the Spratly archipelago. Photo credit AP.

“Under the pre-condition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities,” Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said on Wednesday, after local media published the images on Itu Aba.

The United States has urged against the militarization of the South China Sea, following the rapid land reclamation by China on several disputed reefs through dredging, and building air fields and port facilities.

Taiwan’s defense ministry and coast guard, which directly oversees Itu Aba, said details about the structures are confidential and have not commented on their nature.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the request.

Defense experts in Taiwan said that based on the imagery of the structures and their semi-circular layout, the structures were likely related to defense and could be part of an artillery foundation.

“I think definitely it will be for military purposes, but I cannot tell if it is for defending, attacking or monitoring,” said Dustin Wang, a scholar and a former government advisor who has regularly visited Itu Aba.

Wang said given the structures’ location which faces the main seaborne traffic, they may relate to surveillance.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts or all of the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes.

In July, an international court ruled against China in a case brought by the Philippines that rejected China’s claim to a vast swathes of the disputed maritime area. Both China and Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province, vehemently rejected the court ruling.

(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Related:

 (“China risks becoming a pariah nation because of its overfishing, illegal fishing and damage to the global ocean environments….”)

China Coast Guard — In this photo released by the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters of Japan, a Chinese coastguard vessel sails near the disputed islands in the East China Sea on August 6, 2016. Japan said this ship was watching over more than 200 Chinese fishing boats fishing illegally in Japanese waters. AP

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One Response to “South China Sea: Taiwan asks Google to blur images showing new facilities at Itu Aba”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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