China developing, arming manmade isles—US report


WASHINGTON—China has reclaimed more than 1,295 hectares of land in the southeastern South China Sea. But the country’s focus has shifted to developing and arming those manmade islands to give it greater control over the maritime region without having to resort to armed conflict, according to a new Pentagon report.

In its most detailed assessment to date of China’s island-building program, the Department of Defense said three of the land features on the Spratly islands now had nearly 10,000-foot runways and large ports in various stages of construction.

And China has excavated deep channels, created and dredged harbors, and constructed communications, logistics and intelligence-gathering facilities.

The report argued that the accelerated building effort did not give China any new territorial rights. But it said that the airfields, ship facilities, and surveillance and weapons equipment would allow China to significantly enhance its long-term presence in the South China Sea.

“This would improve China’s ability to detect and challenge activities by rival claimants or third parties, widen the range of capabilities available to it, and reduce the time required to deploy them,” the report released on Friday said.

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