China’s near completion of artificial islets and combat aircraft facilities in the Spratly Islands will give it extra power to make other countries keep out of the widely disputed South China Sea or get Chinese permission to use it, analysts say.
Beijing is about to finish naval, air, radar and other facilities on the “big three” islets in the sea’s Spratly archipelago, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a project of the Washington-based policy research organization Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The American think tank initiative’s monitoring over the past two years shows a near completion of “major construction of military and dual-use infrastructure” on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs held by China in the Spratlys, according to its website, which adds Beijing can now deploy combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers to the Spratly Islands anytime.
Around-the-clock presence in area
Those installations will give China “around-the-clock presence” for “establishing administration” over its claims to the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea, initiative director Gregory Poling said.
China claims more than 90 percent of the resource-rich sea that extends from Taiwan southwest to Singapore. The Chinese claim overlaps tracts that Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also call their own.
“If you’re a Southeast Asian fisherman or coast guard vessel or an oil and gas exploration vessel, you don’t operate unless the Chinese let you operate, because they now are watching everything you do, and as soon as they send planes out there they’ll be able to intervene anywhere, anytime,” Poling said.