China is continuing to militarize the South China Sea despite promising to stop


Despite claims in August that it would stop reclaiming land in the South China Sea, Beijing is continuing to pursue construction of man-made islands flush with military equipment.

Citing the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), The Washington Post reports that China is planning large-scale construction on the recently dredged Subi Reef and Mischief Reef, including a new airfield. The new airfield, when operational, would allow China to establish interlocking zones of air control over the region.

In addition to the airfield, China is also planning on equipping the recently dredged islands with anti-aircraft weapons and various naval vessels, Michael J. Green, a senior CSIS vice president, told the Post, citing Chinese officials. This combination of weapons would further solidify China’s position within the region.

These developments, Green told the paper, would establish “overlapping air control over the South China Sea, and not just from one airfield but from three. … [I]t won’t stop the U.S. policy of asserting freedom of navigation, but it makes it a lot more complicated operation.”

The construction on the Subi and Mischief Islands follows the pattern of China’s previous construction on the Fiery Cross Reef. In April, satellite images from Airbus Defence and Space located and identified a 3,000-meter (9,842-foot) long military-grade runway, as well as construction of seawalls on the island for an artificial harbour.

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