China continues island militarization despite international court ruling

by WorldTribune Staff, August 10, 2016

An international tribunal’s ruling against China over contested reefs and atolls in the South China Sea has not stopped Beijing from continuing its military buildup in the sea, recently released satellite images show.

China continues to build bases on islands it has reclaimed, and satellite images released on Aug. 10 show Beijing has placed reinforced aircraft hangars on some of the islands.

July 24 satellite image of Subi Reef. /CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe
July 24 satellite image of Subi Reef. /CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published recent satellite photographs showing the construction of the hangars on three reclaimed islands where Beijing has built military bases.

CSIS said new buildings on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs “will soon have hangar space for 24 fighter-jets plus three to four larger planes” and “can easily accommodate any fighter-jet in [China’s] People’s Liberation Army Air Force.”

President Xi Jinping said China’s “territorial sovereignty and marine rights” in the seas would not be affected by last month’s ruling by an international tribunal at The Hague, which declared large areas of the sea to be neutral international waters or the exclusive economic zones of other countries.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has fortified several islands it controls in the South China Sea with mobile rocket launchers able to strike Chinese military bases in the region.

Vietnamese diplomats and military officers told Reuters the launchers could be made operational, if needed, with rocket artillery rounds within two or three days.

The launchers are believed to be part of Vietnam’s “Extra” rocket artillery system recently acquired from Israel. They have a range of 150 kilometers (93 miles) and carry 150kg warheads that can attack multiple targets at once.

Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan have overlapping claims with China to islands in the South China Sea and East China Sea, a region that has significant oil and gas reserves and is a route for billions of dollars in yearly trade.