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  • Jul 30, 2014
  • Updated: 4:15pm
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SOUTH CHINA SEA

China plans artificial island in disputed Spratlys chain in South China Sea

The move indicates a shift from defence to offence in the East and South China seas

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 June, 2014, 2:58am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 June, 2014, 10:32am
 

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China is looking to expand its biggest installation in the Spratly Islands into a fully formed artificial island, complete with airstrip and sea port, to better project its military strength in the South China Sea, a Chinese scholar and a Chinese navy expert have said.

The planned expansion on the disputed Fiery Cross Reef, if approved, would be a further indication of China's change of tack in handling long-running sovereignty disputes from a defensive stance to an offensive one, analysts said. They said it was seen as a step to the declaration of an air defence identification zone.

The Philippines last month protested against China's reclamation activities at nearby Johnson South Reef, site of a 1988 skirmish between the Chinese and Vietnamese navies that was triggered by China's occupation of Fiery Cross Reef.

With recent developments in the South China Sea having again focused the international spotlight on China, the analysts warned reclamation at the Fiery Cross atoll - which China, the Philippines and Vietnam all claim - would further strain Beijing's relations with neighbours.

The proposal to build an artificial island there had been submitted to the central government, said Jin Canrong , a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. The artificial island would be at least double the size of the US military base of Diego Garcia, a remote coral atoll occupying an area of 44 square kilometres in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Jin added.

The reef currently houses Chinese-built facilities including an observation post commissioned by Unesco's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

Li Jie, a naval expert from the Chinese Naval Research Institute, said the expanded island would include the airstrip and port. After the expansion the island would continue to house the observation post and to provide military supplies and assistance, he said.

A retired People's Liberation Army senior colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the construction of a landing strip on Fiery Cross Reef would allow China to better prepare for the establishment of an air defence identification zone over the South China Sea.

Watch: What is the East China Sea dispute about?

Beijing's declaration of such a zone over the East China Sea in December prompted concerns among Southeast Asian countries that a similar arrangement could be imposed in the South China Sea.

Fiery Cross Reef, known as Yongshu in China, Kagitingan in the Philippines and Da Chu Thap in Vietnam, is close to sea lanes and could serve as a strategic naval staging post, said Alexander Neill, a Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow.

Jin said consideration of whether and how to go ahead with the Fiery Cross Reef proposal would depend on progress on reclamation at Johnson South Reef.

"It's a very complicated oceanic engineering project, so we need to learn from the experience" on Johnson South, Jin said.

Late last month, renditions of a proposed artificial island were circulated among Chinese media. Citing a report posted on the website of the Shanghai-based China Shipbuilding NDRI Engineering, the Global Times said the unidentified artificial island could include a landing strip and a 5,000-tonne berth.

Zhang Jie, an expert on regional security with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China had long been researching island reclamation. Institutes and companies had drafted various designs over the past decade, said Zhang, adding that she had attended deliberation of one proposal years ago.

Building an artificial island ... would cause very severe negative impacts
Zhang Jie, security expert

"We had the ability to build artificial islands years ago, but we had refrained because we didn't want to cause too much controversy," she said.

However, this year had seen a "turning point" in which Beijing appeared to be making more offensive moves in the area, said Zhang, citing the recent deployment of an oil rig to disputed waters near Vietnam.

"Building an artificial island can no doubt provide supplies to ships and oil rigs nearby, but this would also cause very severe negative impacts in the region."

Such moves, she added, would further deepen mistrust among China's neighbours and cause instability in the region.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence in Beijing did not respond to requests for comment.

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virokick
At the backyard of Sabah Malaysia and Southern Philippines. Against UN - United Nations Convention Law of Sea, 200Km Exclusive Economic Zone.
We are going to have a big problem. China said it's 4000 years history has shown it to be peaceful - oil will change everything.
Yknot
The first people to navigate the waters of the Spratleys were the Malayo-Indonesian peoples- ancestors of the inhabitants of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines etc.
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The Japanese controlled the Spratleys prior to WW2.
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The Cairo Declaration, signed by China, specifically did not include the Spratleys in the list of territories to be returned to China post-WW2.
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At the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, 56 out of 62 nations voted not to give the Spratleys to China.
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China's first permanent presence in the Spratleys occurred in 1988 when they clashed with Vietnamese forces and took some REEFS. Even today, China occupies no islands in the Spratleys.
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In the Declaration on Conduct for the South China Seas (2002), signed by Asean members and China, the parties agreed not to undertake activities that would escalate disputes.
ejmciii
The Communist Chinese have really thrown back the curtain and let us see the man who is Oz. Prior statements that Chinese military growth were to stabilize the region and should not be a cause for concern for her neighbors are laid bare as bald faced lies. Statements that China wants a mutually acceptable solution is balderdash. China wants what it wants and will break all manner of treaties and international law as it sees fit and use military force to obtain its desired objectives. The time for appeasement is just emboldening them. Adolf and team had nothing on these boys. This is not the end, just the beginning of their willingness to take what they want. Are you listening Barry?
XYZ
Peaceful rise?
M Miyagi
Excellent idea. China must defend her territories properly.
Yknot
I think you mean enforce its control over the Exclusive Economic Zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.
thienminh92@gmail.com
The world let' see what China is doing. They are faking islands and it will be Chinese territory. How big a joke is that. We are not living in 19th century or before that, where no rules and no respect are regulated. This is the civilization and modernization where everyone is trying to live in peace and Chinese is the one to destroy it. China seems has not learn enough about true modernization and civilization. How barbarian the Chinese government and its horrible CCP
ejmciii
We? Please. My Indonesian cat is more american than you, Comrade. Run along there are princelings with boots needing licking.
tramxt
People are just greedy and how wars started. Why not share and everyone will win.
nicolas
This only shows how greedy and evil communist china is. On one side, they're mentioning bilateral talks be taken between nation on the disputes island. And on the other side, they're occupying everything that doesn't belongs to them under the UNCLOS agreement. Provocation and coercive action will not let them get away with it. Asean nation will stand up and unite as one in condemning such barbaric act by this rubbish communist china. International laws will prevail sooner or later. Mainlanders will suffer in the end when they visit other nation because of their government attitude. They're simply creating enemies around Asian countries instead of makiing friends. FILTHY RUBBISH COMMUNIST CHINA....

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