Beijing building island in South China Sea

Beijing building island in South China Sea

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 said 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 in waters also claimed by Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei.

IHS Jane’s said images it had obtained showed the Chinese-built island on the Fiery Cross Reef to be at least 3,000 metres long and 200-300 metres wide, which it noted is “large enough to construct a runway and apron.”

The construction flies in the face of calls to stop 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. Dredgers were also creating a harbour to the east of the reef “that would appear to be large enough to receive tankers and major surface combatants”.

Beijing has rejected Washington’s call for all parties to halt activity in the disputed waters to ease tension, saying it can build whatever its wants in the South China Sea.

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