Satellite imagery shows that China has finished construction of a major runway on a dredged reef in the South China Sea, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reports.
The images show that China has recently finished constructing a military length runway on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, an island chain primarily claimed by both the Philippines and China. Jane’s estimates that the runway will soon become operational, granting Beijing a wealth of benefits and further operational advantages in the disputed region.
“The completion of the runway, which previous imagery suggests only occurred in recent weeks, will allow China to accelerate construction of infrastructure and potentially start air patrols over the Spratly Islands, which are claimed and occupied by a number of countries,” Jane’s notes.
The 3,125 meter-long runway is sufficiently lengthy for military operations. In addition, the runway is complete with helipads.
The runway on Fiery Cross is merely the first of many completed runways that China is building throughout the South China Sea.
Citing the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), The Washington Post reports that China is planning large-scale construction on the recently dredged Subi Reef and Mischief Reef, including a new airfield. The new airfield, when operational, would allow China to establish interlocking zones of air control over the region.
These developments, Green told the paper, would establish “overlapping air control over the South China Sea, and not just from one airfield but from three. … [I]t won’t stop the U.S. policy of asserting freedom of navigation, but it makes it a lot more complicated operation.”
The Fiery Cross Reef runway appears to have been completed within the preceding few weeks. This comes amid promises from Beijing in August that it would cease reclaiming land within the disputed sea.
The expansion of Chinese construction in the South China Sea is kicking off a series of territorial disputes with Beijing’s neighbours in the south, all of whom also have competing maritime claims to the reefs and islands.
Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines all have military bases within the South China Sea on islands that those countries control.
As of June 2015, China has reclaimed more than 2,900 acres of land since December 2013. View the details of the power struggle below:
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