Philippines uncovers new Chinese construction in Spratlys

China is ramping up land reclamation and construction on the disputed Spratly Islands, aerial photographs by the Philippine military show, fueling concerns in Manila that the Asian giant soon may militarize in the South China Sea.

The photos from January show several large facilities, such as a six-story building, being constructed on the Johnson North and Johnson South reefs. China has reclaimed about 80,000 sq. meters on Johnson North Reef, where just a 1,000-sq.-meter building stood two years ago.

A massive 3km strip with a maximum width of 600 meters has emerged on Fiery Cross Reef, where the Philippine military thinks China is constructing an airstrip. Much of the reclaimed land and facilities are expected to be for military use, based on their shapes.

 In addition to the five known projects in the area, the new photos revealed that China also is building up the Mischief and Subi reefs. A facility resembling a fish farm was discovered on Mischief Reef.

These activities “are fueling greater anxiety within the region about China’s intentions amid concerns they may militarize outposts on disputed land features,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Monday.

China’s large-scale projects first came to light last year, also through photos by Philippine forces. Beijing has claimed most of the South China Sea as its territory and is tightening control over the area. It is reclaiming land on the Paracel Islands as well.

Other claimants of the disputed territory, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, have few or no options to curb Chinese expansionism. The Philippine government is challenging Beijing’s claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and a decision could come out as early as the end of this year.


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