Before and After: The South China Sea Transformed


This map shows four land features in the Spratly Islands that have undergone significant construction or land reclamation work in the past year. They are: Itu Aba, Gaven Reef, Johnson South Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef. Read more details about the features of these projects and use click and drag the slider in the middle to see before and after photographs.


Photo credit: Google Earth

1. Itu Aba

  • The largest land feature in the Spratly Islands, the only Spratly Island with fresh ground water, and the only island that Taiwan occupies in the South China Sea
  • 1.3 kilometers in length and less than half a square kilometer in total area
  • Held by Taiwan since 1946, when Japan left the island at the end of the Second World War
  • The Republic of China established a permanent base there in 1956
  • In 2000, Taiwan sent a Coast Guard deployment of 100 personnel to the island to replace a detachment of Marines and built an airstrip in 2008
  • Taiwan is currently in the midst of a $100 million Itu Aba port renovation that will allow it to accommodate frigates and coast guard cutters
  • It is also making improvements to its 1,200 meter runway, used mostly for C-130 cargo planes
  • Taiwan has also reportedly considered the permanent stationing of armed vessels on Itu Aba
  • In November 2014, Taiwan halted its Itu Aba port renovation after revelations that a Chinese ship and crew were involved in transport but it has since restarted
  • New reports out of Taiwan indicate that the runway renovation will be complete by the end of February, 2015

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