After building an artificial island chain to station its troops among the Spratly islands between Brunei and Vietnam, the Chinese regime is now building its first runway in the disputed waters.
The new airstrip is on the Fiery Cross Reef in the island chain, which can be seen in new satellite imagery from European aerospace company Airbus Defence and Space.
The Chinese regime began turning the reef into an artificial island in August 2014. According to intelligence company IHS Jane’s, satellite images show a 1,650-foot section of the runway on the northeast side of the island is already paved.
“Paving and ground preparation of other sections of the runway has also begun further along the island,” states the April 15 report from IHS Jane’s.
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The Chinese regime’s newly-created island at Fiery Cross Reef could support a runway of close to 10,000 feet. According to IHS Jane’s, “This would be well within the parameters of existing People’s Liberation Army Air Force runways on mainland China…”
The Chinese regime is building several artificial islands in the island chain also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. The islands are close to 1,000 miles south of China’s southernmost tip on Hainan Island.
According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, the Chinese regime was the only major country that claims territory in the Spratly islands that did not have an airstrip there.
“What sets China’s activities apart, however, is that Beijing has been dramatically changing the size and structure of physical land features, while other claimants have built upon or modified existing land masses,” states a Feb. 18 report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
It adds that in February, the Chinese regime had close to 200 troops garrisoned on the Fiery Cross Reef, which also has radar and surveillance capabilities.
“Fiery Cross may now be more than three times larger than Itu Aba, formerly the largest of the Spratlys,” it states.
According to IHS Jane’s, the images also show that the Chinese regime is continuing to dredge and build an artificial harbor on the southeast corner of the island.
It states that other satellite images show the Chinese regime is building more artificial islands on the nearby Subi Reef, which it may join together to create another landmass large enough for a second airstrip.
“While Fiery Cross Reef is to the west of the Spratly Islands archipelago, Subi Reef is on the north side of the island group and is only 25 km from Thitu/Pagasa island, which is occupied by the Philippines and has a civilian population,” it states.