Chinese reclamation work on Zamora (Subi) Reef
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said on Friday the territorial dispute with
Recent satellite images show
made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in
contested territory in the Spratly Islands and may be planning another, moves that have
been greeted with concern in the United States
IHS Jane's Defense Weekly said March 23 images from Airbus Defense and Space showed work on the runway on reclaimed parts of Fiery Cross Reef, also known as Kagitingan Reef, in the Spratly archipelago, which China contests with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
"We keep asserting the problem in the
South China Sea
is not a regional problem," Aquino told journalists. "This is a
problem of the whole world because 40 percent of global trade pass through
these waters. Global leaders have already expressed their concern on this
IHS Jane's report said images from earlier in March showed reclamation work on Subu (
Reef in the Spratlys creating landmasses that, if joined together, could create
space for another 3,000-meter airstrip. Zamora
The report said other images suggested China was working to extend another airstrip to that length in the Paracel Islands further north in the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, a vital shipping route through which $5 trillion of trade passes every year.
The report comes a day after the
military commander for Asia, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said could
eventually deploy radar and missile systems on outposts it is building that
could be used to enforce an exclusion zone should it move to declare one. China
IHS Jane's said images of Fiery Cross Reef showed a paved section of runway 505 meters by 53 meters on the northeastern side of the reef, which China began turning into an island with extensive dredging last year.
IHS Jane's said its photos showed further dredging work on the southwestern side of the island and floating cranes consolidating a harbor.
Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank said satellite photographs from April 11 showed the runway about one-third complete, with a projected total length at 3,110 meters, large enough for heavy military transport planes and fighters.
CSIS said the reclamation work could help
its territorial claims, many of which are more than 1,000 miles from its
shores, by allowing it to sustain long-distance sea and air patrols. China
However, its artificial islands were too small and vulnerable, both to weather and wartime targeting, to support major forward deployment of military forces, it said.
At a seminar in
on Thursday, China's
ambassador to the , Cui Tiankai, said it was
"natural" that its reclamation work would include military defense
He said there "should be no illusion that anyone could impose on
unilateral status quo" or "repeatedly violate 's
sovereignty without consequences." China
Senator John McCain, chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, called the Chinese moves "aggressive" and said they showed the need for the Obama administration to act on plans to move more military resources into the economically important Asian region and boost cooperation with Asian countries worried by
McCain referred to a
intelligence assessment from February that China's
military modernization was designed to counteract US
strength and said
had a lot of work ahead to maintain its military advantage in the Asia-Pacific. Washington
"When any nation fills in 600 acres of land and builds runways and most likely is putting in other kinds of military capabilities in what is international waters, it is clearly a threat to where the world's economy is going, has gone, and will remain for the foreseeable future," he told a public briefing in Congress.
US warns against militarization
A spokesperson for the US State Department said the scale of
reclamation and construction was fueling concerns within the region that intends
to militarize its outposts and stressed the importance of freedom of
has a strong interest in preservation of peace and security in the South China Sea. We do not believe that large-scale land
reclamation with the intent to militarize outposts on disputed land features is
consistent with the region’s desire for peace and stability."
The issue was discussed in a meeting in
between US Deputy Secretary of
State Antony Blinken and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts. Washington
The United States warned last week against militarization of contested territory in Asia, and President Barack Obama accused China of using its "sheer size and muscle" to push around smaller nations, after Beijing sketched out plans to use the Spratlys for military defense as well as to provide civilian services that would benefit other countries.
On Wednesday, G7 foreign ministers issued a statement on maritime security, expressing concern on unilateral actions in the
South China Sea, including "large scale
reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions".
American and Filipino troops will take part in the largest-ever drills in 15 years next week, a key component of
America's rebalance to Asia