China may be building second air strip in Spratlys – think-tank


CHINA may be building a second airstrip on a reef near the second largest of the Spratly Islands being occupied by the Philippines and which is being claimed by three claimant-countries, according to the Washington-based think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“China’s artificial island at Subi Reef, which may eventually house an airstrip, is just 14 kilometers away from Thitu Island (Pag-asa) which, which is home to the Philippines’ only airstrip in the Spratlys,” said Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper, CSIS fellow of Asia Program and director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

The Philippines has a landing strip (Rancudo Airfield) with two commercial flights weekly and a small harbor in Pag-asa.

China is already building a 3,000-meter (9,842 feet) runway on Fiery Cross reef, the longest in the area, which security experts say is already in the advanced stages and could ultimately be used for military operations. The reef is around 1,000 kilometers from the island province of Hainan.

Hooper noted that China’s new island at Johnson Reef is only 6.2 kilometers away from Collins Reef, and its outpost at Hughes Reef is just 14 km away from Sin Cowe Island, which are both held by Vietnam.

“Given these short distances, moves by China to significantly augment the flow of vessels and aircraft through these outposts would increase the risk of accidental or inadvertent escalation between the claimants, which could in turn result in armed conflict,” Hooper stressed.