MANILA, Philippines — China intends to use its “magical island maker” to expand the size of its reclaimed islands in the South China Sea following years of massive reclamations and despite continuing protests from neighboring countries.
“The size of some South China Sea Islands will be further expanded in the future with more dredging vessels, such as the [Tian Kun Hao] working on the land reclamation projects in the South China Sea region,” Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, the state-run Global Times said.
Chen said that one of the most outstanding achievements of China’s island-building in the contested waters was the increase in civilian facilities on these man-made features, thereby improving public service capacity and helping maintain sovereignty over them.
This expansion will likely continue just months after China in November launched Tian Kun Hao, its biggest island-making vessel and described as a “magic island maker.”
A new government report said that China “reasonably” expanded the area of its South China Sea islands, with construction projects in 2017 alone covering about 290,000 square meters.
These construction projects, according to the report, included new underground facilities for storage, administrative buildings and a large radar.
It said that the construction activities will help China meet its “international responsibility” including maritime search and rescue and navigation safety and environment protection.
They can also help Beijing enhance its military defense capability within its “sovereign scope,” with more Chinese troops being stationed in the area, a move likely to further worry its neighbors and the US.
The Chinese report generally reinforced a warning by an American think tank which provided satellite imagery showing China’s unceasing construction activities on its artificially-made features in the disputed waters.