China constructing third airstrip on disputed South China Sea islets: skilled

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Navy

Chinese language dredging vessels are purportedly seen within the waters round Mischief Reef within the disputed Spratly Islands within the South China Sea on this nonetheless picture from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane supplied by the US Navy Might 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Navy

(Reuters) – – China seems to be constructing a 3rd airstrip in contested territory within the South China Sea, a U.S. skilled mentioned on Monday, citing satellite tv for pc images taken final week.

The images taken for Washington’s Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research (CSIS) assume tank on Sept. eight present building on Mischief Reef, one in every of a number of synthetic islands China has created within the Spratly archipelago.

The photographs present an oblong space with a retaining wall, three,000 meters (three,280 yards) lengthy, matching comparable work by China on two different reefs, Subi and Fiery Cross, mentioned Greg Poling, director of CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).

“Clearly, what now we have seen goes to be a three,000-meter airstrip and now we have seen some extra work on what’s clearly going to be some port amenities for ships,” he mentioned.

Safety consultants say the strip could be lengthy sufficient to accommodate most Chinese language army plane, giving Beijing larger attain into the center of maritime Southeast Asia, the place it has competing claims with a number of international locations.

Information of the work comes forward of a go to to Washington subsequent week by Chinese language President Xi Jinping. U.S. worries about China’s more and more assertive territorial claims are anticipated to be excessive on the agenda.

A spokesman for the U.S. Protection Division, Commander Invoice City, declined to remark particularly on Poling’s evaluation, however repeated U.S. requires a halt to land reclamation, building and militarization of South China Sea outposts to “ease tensions and create area for diplomatic options.”

“China’s said intentions with its program, and continued building, is not going to cut back tensions or result in a significant diplomatic resolution,” he added.

A brand new airstrip at Mischief Reef could be notably worrying for the Philippines, a rival claimant within the South China Sea. It might enable China to mount “kind of fixed” patrols over Reed Financial institution, the place the Philippines has lengthy explored for oil and gasoline, Poling mentioned.

Three airstrips, as soon as accomplished, would enable China to threaten all air site visitors over the options it has reclaimed within the South China Sea, he mentioned, including that it could be particularly worrying if China had been to put in superior air defenses.

Satellite tv for pc images from late June confirmed China

had nearly completed a three,000-meter airstrip on Fiery Cross.

Satellite tv for pc photographs from earlier this 12 months confirmed reclamation work on Subi Reef creating land that would accommodate one other airstrip. Poling mentioned the newest photographs made it apparent that such an airstrip was being constructed at Subi.

China stepped up creation of synthetic islands within the South China Sea final 12 months, drawing robust criticism from Washington.

Requested about Mischief Reef on Monday, China’s International Ministry spokesman Hong Lei repeated China’s declare to “indeniable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands and its proper to ascertain army amenities there.

– – –

(Extra reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Modifying by Jonathan Oatis and Christian Plumb)

Aline Niyonkuru

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