China is building its first runway on a disputed island chain in the South China Sea


China has begun construction of a military-length runway on an artificial island in the disputed South China Sea, according to an analysis by IHS Jane’s based on satellite imagery from Airbus Defense and Space.

The runway is being constructed along the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. According to Jane’s, the reef will be capable of holding a runway 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) long. This is well within the length of military runways in China, which range from 2,700 meters to 4,000 meters long.

As of March 23, China had begun paving sections of the runway in the northeast of the island. An apron, where planes could park, was also paved at the end of the construction.

In conjunction with the runway construction, Beijing has also undertaken a program of dredging and expansion of the Fiery Cross Reef. The expansion includes the construction and reinforcement of seawalls around the manmade port in the island’s eastern segment.

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