CSIS’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has long been reporting on China’s aggressive land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea, publishing satellite photos and analysis that has tracked Beijing’s relentless progress. The think tank’s latest dispatch shows that China has not been deterred at all by the recent arbitration court ruling against it. Reuters:
“Except for a brief visit by a military transport plane to Fiery Cross Reef earlier this year, there is no evidence that Beijing has deployed military aircraft to these outposts. But the rapid construction of reinforced hangars at all three features indicates that this is likely to change,” CSIS said in a report.
The hangars all show signs of structural strengthening, CSIS said.
“They are far thicker than you would build for any civilian purpose,” Gregory Poling, director of CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, told the New York Times, which first reported on the new images. “They’re reinforced to take a strike.”
Other facilities including unidentified towers and hexagonal structures have also been built on the islets in recent months, CSIS said.
China has been behaving particularly aggressively just this weekend, sending hundreds of fishing vessels accompanied by its coast guard into contested waters off the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, as well as flying combat air patrols in the South China Sea—an exercise meant to demonstrate that it can walk and chew gum at the same time, according to the South China Morning Post. Whoever takes over from President Obama will have to pull off a similar feat, but with a much broader, global scope: Syria and Ukraine both look to stay a mess well into 2016, and the China portfolio, its increasingly clear, will also demand its fair share of attention.