Wed, Aug 10, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Territorial Disputes: Satellite images suggest China has built reinforced hangars on disputed islands

Reuters, WASHINGTON

Recent satellite photographs show China appears to have built reinforced aircraft hangars on its holdings in the disputed South China Sea, according to a Washington-based think tank.

Pictures taken late last month show the hangars constructed on Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑島), Subi Reef (Jhubi Reef, 渚碧礁) and Mischief Reef (Meiji Reef, 美濟礁) in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) have room for any fighter jet in the Chinese air force, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said.

“Except for a brief visit by a military transport plane to Fiery Cross Reef earlier this year, there is no evidence that Beijing has deployed military aircraft to these outposts. But the rapid construction of reinforced hangars at all three features indicates that this is likely to change,” the CSIS said in a report.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims.

The images have emerged about a month after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled against China’s sweeping claims in the resource-rich region, a ruling emphatically rejected by Beijing.

The US has urged China and other claimants not to militarize their holdings in the South China Sea.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and nearby waters,” the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said yesterday in a faxed response to a request for comment. “China has said many times, construction on the Spratly Islands and reefs is multipurpose, mixed and with the exception of necessary military defensive requirements, are more for serving all forms of civil needs.”

The hangars all show signs of structural strengthening, the CSIS said.

“They are far thicker than you would build for any civilian purpose,” Gregory Poling, director of CSIS’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, told the New York Times, which first reported on the new images. “They’re reinforced to take a strike.”

Other facilities including unidentified towers and hexagonal structures have also been built on the islets in recent months, the think tank said.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top