BEIJING — China is rapidly building an airstrip on an artificial island in disputed South China Sea waters, recent satellite pictures show, potentially ramping up tensions with several Southeast Asian neighbors.
Fiery Cross in the Spratly Islands was little more than a reef when China began land reclamation works to turn it into an island in late 2014.
Now satellite images taken last week by DigitalGlobe and shown on the website of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) show the runway — estimated at 3.1 kilometers (1.9 miles) in total — more than one-third complete, it says.
When in operation, it says, it will be able to “accommodate almost any type of aircraft that China would want to land.”
“Before this construction China lacked the refueling and resupply capabilities to reach the southern part of the South China Sea,” it added.
“While they have not yet been built, Fiery Cross should be big enough to accommodate hangar facilities for Chinese aircraft.”