WASHINGTON – Tensions over China’s island-building in the South china Sea, may have eased in the past year, but Beijing has kept busy.
New satellite images show China has built infrastructure which is 72 acres (28 ha) in the Spratly and Paracel islands during 2017 to equip its larger outposts are air-and marine-based.
The Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative closely tracks developments in the South china Sea, where China and several Asian governments have conflicting territorial claims. He said Thursday there is the construction of sheds, underground storage, rocket shelters, radar arrays and other facilities.
The activity comes as China joins what is likely to be lengthy negotiations with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct for the South china Sea. Tensions with the united states on the issue have also eased, despite Washington’s criticism of Beijing’s conduct.
The construction is the follow-up phase of a campaign of land reclamation, which was completed by the beginning of 2016 in the Spratlys, a group of islands, where Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei also have claims. According to the Pentagon, China has more than 3,200 acres (1,248 ha) of land to the seven characteristics on the country it is located in the area.
China also seems to have stopped smaller scale operation to expand the islands in the Paracels, which lie further to the north, the initiative said.
The U.S. and others have accused Beijing of further militarizing the region and the change of geography to reinforce its sweeping claims over the South china Sea. China says that the artificial islands in the Spratlys, which are equipped with runways and military installations, mainly for civilian purposes and to increase the safety for fisheries and maritime trade.
Greg Poling, the initiative of the director, said that China had seized on a diplomatic opening after the election of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines that has a conciliatory stance toward Beijing over their territorial dispute. It is also less of a focus for the Trump administration seized by the North Korean nuclear threat and the trade disputes with China.
“It’s gotten out of the front pages, but we should not confuse that with a slowdown in China, the pursuit of her goals. They put all the construction they want,” Poling said.
The most construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys, including hangars in addition to its 10,000 feet (3,000 metres) at the airport in underground structures, probably designed to house ammunition, or other materials, hardened shelters for missile platforms, and communication and radar facilities, the initiative said.
It is also noted that China has deployed new military aircraft on Woody Island in the Paracels. At the end of October, the Chinese military released pictures of J-11B fighters for drilling. In the middle of November, Y-8 transport aircraft were spotted on the island, which is capable of electronic intelligence gathering.
The United States does not claim territory in the South china Sea, but has declared it is a national interest to ensure that the territorial disputes are settled peacefully in accordance with international law, and of the freedom of navigation and overflight guaranteed. China has opposed what it calls the U.S. intervention in an Asian dispute.