Satellite images show China is building an island on a reef in the disputed Spratly Islands large enough to accommodate what could be its first offshore airstrip in the South China Sea, a leading defence publication reported on Friday.
The construction has stoked concern that China may be converting disputed territory in the mineral-rich archipelago into military installations, adding to tensions over waters also claimed by Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei.
IHS Jane’s, a leading defence publication, said images it had obtained showed the Chinese-built island on the Fiery Cross Reef to be at least 1.9 miles long and 660-980ft wide, which it noted is “large enough to construct a runway and apron”.
The building work flies in the face of US calls for a freeze in provocative activity in the South China Sea, one of Asia’s biggest security issues. Concern is growing about an escalation in disputes even as claimants work to establish a code of conduct to resolve them.
Such is the state of the world these days that we often forget about the potential trouble spot that our military has been worried about for quite some time. China is no doubt emboldened by the fact that the United States has a weak president and knows it has at least until January 2017 to push its luck.
At least we can be assured that we won’t run out of distractions.