China has “reasonably” expanded its islands in the disputed South China Sea and construction this year, including radar facilities, covered about 290,000m2, a new government report said.
The number was broadly similar to one provided by a US think tank earlier this month.
China has conducted extensive land reclamation work on some of the islands and reefs it controls in the South China Sea, including building airports, alarming its neighbors and Washington.
Beijing says the work is to help provide international services, such as search-and-rescue, but admits there is a military purpose too.
China also says it can do whatever it wants on its territory.
The new report, posted on a Web site run by China’s National Marine Data and Information Service and the overseas edition of the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily, says China has enhanced its military presence there and “reasonably” expanded the area covered by the islands.
Apart from what it termed “large radar” — it was unclear if the report was referring to more than one — construction this year has included facilities for underground storage and administrative buildings.
There has been an increase in military patrols too, the report added, without giving specifics.
The report was released on Friday, but appeared in the state-run Global Times yesterday.
While attention in Asia has been distracted by the North Korean nuclear crisis in the past year, China has continued to install high-frequency radar and other facilities that can be used for military purposes on its artificial islands in the South China Sea, a US think tank said this month.
That report, by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Chinese activity has involved work on facilities covering 29 hectares of the Spratly (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) is) and Paracel islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島), territory contested with several Asian neighbors.
More than US$5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea every year. Besides China’s territorial claims in the area, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines have rival claims.
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