The Chinese regime has completed construction of an intelligence and communications hub in the disputed Spratly Islands located in the South China Sea, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S.-based think tank.
The organization published a report on Feb. 16 analyzing aerial photographs published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and CSIS’ own satellite imagery. It concluded that a large communications or sensor array—bigger than all other bases China has built in the area—had been completed on Fiery Cross Reef, “suggesting that Fiery Cross might be serving as a signals intelligence/communications hub for Chinese forces in the area,” according to the report.
In recent years, China has constructed several reefs and artificial islands in the archipelago known as the Spratly Islands, despite other Asian countries, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Malaysia, also staking territorial claims. Fiery Cross is the smallest of three main islands the Chinese regime has commissioned.
The CSIS report confirmed that China’s artificial islands serve as air and naval bases. Fiery Cross has a 3,000-meter runway; hangar space for more than 20 combat aircraft; a field of upright poles that CSIS suspects serve as a high frequency radar array; and defense fortifications fashioned with large guns.
Subi Reef, which the report noted is a major concern for the Philippines—given its proximity to the country’s administered Thitu Islands—is fortified similarly, along with a shipping crane, underground storage tunnels (“likely for ammunition and other material,” according to the report), and structures with retractable roofs, which CSIS believes are shelters for mobile missile launchers.
The uninhabited Spratly Islands have become of interest to the Chinese regime due to their strategic location along shipping routes and potential proximity to natural resources.