China has begun work or completed building infrastructure on about 72 acres (29 hectares) of land on outposts in the South China Sea this year, according to a report by the Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
While the global focus has been on North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, China has been quietly developing facilities from underground storage areas to hangers and radar arrays on reefs in the sea. The new real estate is on reclaimed land at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief reefs in the Spratlys chain, and North, Tree, and Triton features in the Paracels.
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“Beijing remains committed to advancing the next phase of its build-up—construction of the infrastructure necessary for fully-functioning air and naval bases on the larger outposts,” the report said.
In recent years China has undertaken massive land reclamation in the waterway that hosts $5 trillion in trade a year to strengthen its claim to more than 80 percent of the area. That has strained ties with other claimant states such as Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as the U.S.