Saturday, August 5, 2017

China has built new military facilities on South China Sea islands: think tank

China has built new military facilities on South China Sea islands: think tank

Reuters, WASHINGTON

Construction is shown on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in this June 16 satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, a US think tank reported on Thursday, a move that could raise tensions with Washington, which has accused Beijing of militarizing the vital waterway.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said new satellite images show missile shelters and radar and communications facilities being built on the Fiery Cross (Yongshu Reef, 永暑島), Mischief (Meiji Reef, 美濟礁) and Subi (Jhubi Reef, 渚碧礁) reefs in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).
The US has criticized China’s buildup of military facilities on the artificial islands and is concerned they could be used to restrict free movement through the sea.
China has denied US charges that it is militarizing the sea, which is also claimed in whole or in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Trump has sought China’s help in reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, but tension between Washington and Beijing over military installations in the South China Sea could complicate those efforts.
China has built four new missile shelters on Fiery Cross Reef to go with the eight already on the artificial island, the think tank said.
Mischief and Subi each have eight shelters, the think tank said in a previous report.
On Mischief Reef, a very large antenna array is being installed that presumably boosts Beijing’s ability to monitor the surroundings, the think tank said, adding that the installation should be of concern to the Philippines due to its proximity to an area claimed by Manila.
A large dome was recently installed on Fiery Cross and another is under construction, indicating a sizable communications or radar system, the think tank said.
Two more domes are being built at Mischief Reef, it added.
A smaller dome has been installed near the missile shelters on Mischief, “indicating that it could be connected to radars for any missile systems that might be housed there,” it said.
“Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time,” it added.