CHINA has claimed there was “no such thing” as man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea – despite clear satellite images of the land and sea grab.
The country has carried out major land reclamation and construction on several islands in the Spratly archipelago in what has been the biggest Pacific land and sea grabs since World War 2.
The strategic bases will give China the ability to deploy combat aircraft and other military assets with terrifying efficiency across the disputed region, news.com.au reports.
The long-running South China Sea dispute circles around claims from several sovereign states over the waters and its islands, through which an estimated $5trillion of trade passes through.
Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam also claim the waters should be classed as their own.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the work was for civilian purposes and that China had every right to do this.
“There is no such thing as man-made islands,” Wu told a regular monthly news briefing.
“Most of the building is for civilian purposes, including necessary defensive facilities.”
Earlier this year it was reported that China is “stealing” the oil and gas rich South China Sea region and it is too late for Trump and the US to stop them.
The US wants the territory to remain as international waters, sparking fears a war could break out if China starts acting aggressively.
The Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) analysed recent satellite photos and concluded that runways, aircraft hangers, radar sites and hardened surface-to-air missile shelters have either been finished or are nearing completion.
China has constructed enough concrete hangers for 24 fighter jets and four or five larger planes.
These could include bombers or early warning aircraft.
But a report, released this week, appears to be the most conclusive indication yet that China is using its island-building project to give teeth to its claim over almost the entire South China Sea and its islands and reefs.
Ashley Townshend, a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said: “It confirms what we’ve known for a long time.
“Beijing intends to turn these artificial outposts into military footholds that will provide it with power projection capability right across the South China Sea.”
“In a crisis, these facilities would significantly complicate US war plans and access to the South China Sea at acceptable levels of cost and risk.
“There’s also a more important day-to-day implication: these new military outposts allow China to dramatically extend its strategic reach from its southern shores down to Indonesian waters, creating a new strategic status quo and a Chinese sphere of influence.
“Beijing, in other words, is seeking to become the dominant military power in this part of the world with a capacity to prevent, deny or veto other countries from accessing these waters.”
China already uses an existing airfield on Woody Island in the similarly disputed Paracel chain, located to the north, where it has maintained mobile HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles for more than a year and deployed anti-ship cruise missiles on at least one occasion.
The combination of the existing base in the north with the new islands in the south means China’s military can now operate over the entire sea at the drop of a hat.
The man-made islands in the South China Sea have drawn strong criticism from the US and others, who accuse Beijing of further militarising the region.
China says its island construction is mainly for civilian purposes, particularly to increase safety for ships.
Merchant vessels carry an estimated $5 trillion worth of goods through the waterway each year.
It has also provided reassurances that it will not interfere with freedom of navigation or flight.
But questions remain about to whether that includes military ships and aircraft.
“The Chinese argument that they have most to gain from unfettered ‘freedom of navigation’ in the South China Sea, and would therefore not block commercial shipping, is a solid argument.
“But the reality of the situation in the South China Sea is that China will have the capacity, and has demonstrated the will, to use its presence on these artificial islands to intimidate and coerce other militaries, coastguards and fishing fleets.”
China has refused to confirm speculation over whether it plans to declare an air defence identification zone over the South China Sea as it has done already over international airspace in the East China Sea.
The US has refused to recognise the East China Sea zone, which requires aircraft to declare their flight plans, identify themselves to Chinese traffic monitors and follow their instructions.
A US Navy plane and a Chinese war jet were involved in a terrifying near-miss in the region in February.
Images released last year also suggested China has vastly extended its military scope in the South China Sea.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 782 4368.
- China Authorises Coast Guard to Fire on Foreign Vessels as US Sends Carrier Strike Group to Region
- China Using ‘Cognitive Warfare’ Against Taiwan, Observers Say
- McMillin: The Space Force isn’t the U.S. military’s first space program. Let’s hope this one sticks around.
- If Kim Jong Un destroyed North Korea's economy to keep Covid-19 out, will sanctions stop him from pursuing nuclear weapons?
- The best free-to-play games for 2021
- 100 Monumental Moments From TV History
- Kim Kardashian poses atop a chic tete-a-tete chair in pieces from her newly released SKIMS collections as she bids her followers 'Night!'
- Antifa on Trial: How a College Professor Joined the Left’s Radical Ranks
- Kanye West 'jealous' of Kim Kardashian and 'the amount of time she has devoted to prison reform and their four children' amid 'looming divorce'
- Your guide to Biden's big day: Complete UK schedule for US President-elect being sworn into office from the inauguration ceremony to stepping foot in the White House... all the key times so you don't miss a second
- All-purpose IPs all the rage in property arena
China DENIES filling South China Sea islands with war-ready gun turrets and missile launch pads despite satellite pics have 1008 words, post on www.thesun.ie at March 31, 2017. This is cached page on Konitono.News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.