China is building an island in the South China Sea big enough to support a major airstrip, the New York Times reports, citing IHF Jane’s Defence. The Chinese dredgers that have been expanding and shaping Fiery Cross Reef, one of the thousands of reefs, atolls, and islets that make up the Spratly Islands chain, are creating an island roughly 9,850 feet long and 985 feet wide, with a harbor deep enough to dock warships there. Fiery Cross Reef is roughly 500 miles away from the Chinese mainland, and is nearer to Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.While a top Chinese military official speaking at a military conference in Beijing tried to spin the base as necessary for intelligence gathering, analysts contend that the goals are broader:
The plans for an airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef were most likely intended for China to land military aircraft that could monitor an air defense identification zone, known as an ADIZ, that China appears likely to create in the future, said Bonnie S. Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. […]
To try to stop China from continuing its land reclamation in the Spratlys, the Obama administration suggested earlier this year that all countries with claims in the South China Sea freeze their building on disputed islands.
China rejected the idea. The construction at Fiery Cross Reef was an example of Chinese defiance of the American freeze proposal, Ms. Glaser said.
After all the fanfare over the breakthroughs with China at APEC, Beijing’s “cabbage strategy” is alive and well—and has just sprouted a big fat leaf.