September 15, 2015

"New satellite images show that China has started construction of an airstrip on a third artificial island in the South China Sea that will strengthen Beijing’s military capacity in the contested waters, Western analysts say."

NY Times The photographs, released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, show preparation for airfields on Mischief Reef and Subi Reef, submerged reefs in the contested Spratly Islands that China has transformed into islands, according to the center. By JANE PERLEZ

'The airstrip on Mischief Reef is about 20 miles from a small Philippine military garrison on an existing tiny island and will put the installation under great pressure, said James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly.

'That airstrip will most likely be used for turboprop patrol, but it could easily be equipped for “full military action” if needed, Mr. Hardy said. The most important function of the strip, he said, will be as yet another site for Chinese listening devices and early warning radar, much like the technology being installed on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands of the South China Sea, which are also contested. Evidence of that will probably appear soon on Mischief Reef, he said.

'China completed a 10,000-foot runway several months ago on Fiery Cross Island, one of five artificial islands it has created in a large reclamation project in the South China Sea this year.

'The South China Sea is one of the top areas of disagreement between China and the United States that will be discussed during a state visit by President Xi Jinping to Washington next week.'

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