China is close to completing the construction of an airstrip on a tiny outcrop in the South China Sea, heightening its ability to project power regionally from the disputed waters and further raising the stakes in an increasingly tense showdown between Beijing, its neighbors, and the United States.
New satellite images provided to Foreign Policy show advances in the construction of a strip of pavement on the Fiery Cross Reef, which sits near the southern end of contested waters in the South China Sea, several hundred miles from the Philippines. Fiery Cross is part of the Spratly Islands, an archipelago whose territory is claimed in part or in whole by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei. The photos, the most recent of which is from April 11, show approximately 3,000 feet of completed runway in various shades of green, blue, and gray.
The photos were provided by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a research arm of the Washington-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).