South China Sea Island Construction Expands

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According to satellite images released Thursday, China has expanded the construction of artificial islands atop disputed reefs in the South China Sea. Jeremy Page and Julian Barnes at The Wall Street Journal report:

The images provide the first visual evidence that China has built an artificial island covering 75,000 square yards—about 14 football fields—and including two piers, a cement plant and a helipad, at a land formation called Hughes Reef, according to experts who have studied the pictures. The reef, which is above water only at low tide, lies about 210 miles from the Philippines and 660 miles from China.

The pictures, taken by a commercial satellite division of Airbus Group and released by IHS Jane’s, a defense intelligence provider, also show that China has made significant progress in building similar infrastructure in two other places, Johnson South Reef and Gaven Reefs, where Beijing’s territorial claims overlap with those of its neighbors.

China appears to be building a network of island fortresses to help enforce control of most of the South China Sea—one of the world’s busiest shipping routes—and potentially of the airspace above, according to experts who have studied the images.

The pace and scale of its South China Sea buildup shows that Beijing, despite having recently reined in its rhetoric and avoided confrontations at sea and in the air, hasn’t tempered its ambitions to project power in the region. [Source]

South China Sea Island Construction Expands

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