Satellite images reveal Beijing’s new weapon installed in South China Sea


China has installed a new platform in the Paracel Islands of the South China Sea, with satellite images revealing Beijing’s continuing quest for power in the disputed area.

Recent satellite imagery shows a new structure that appears to be anchored on the north edge of the Bombay Reef, with solar panels and a radome (a dome protecting radar or other equipment) on top.

According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, the dome appears to be an “Ocean E-Station”, a component of a larger “Blue Ocean Information Network” which the Chinese government is developing to aid its “exploration, exploitation and control” of the region. Judging by the dates of comparative satellite images, the dome was set up sometime between April and July this year.

It was most likely developed by the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), which has developed at least two types of these stations to expand its information collection and networks of communication.

Trade brochures provided by the CETC say the machines’ purpose is to “conduct electronic surveillance, provide maritime communications, aid in search-and-rescue, and monitor the ocean environment” — but the superstructure conceals any other facilities or equipment it could contain.