New areas of construction have been spotted at the aptly-named “Mischief Reef” in the South China Sea as China continues to unsettle its neighbors by building up its Great Wall of Sand in the disputed waters.
This time, China’s neighbors are worried about what looks to be the beginning of China’s third airport runway out on the South China Sea, located in the Spratly Islands, extremely close to the Philippine coastline. Satellite images released last week show that a 3,000-meter rectangular area has been reclaimed with a surrounding retaining wall, in a design strikingly familiar to land reclamation projects of the recent past completed at the Fiery Cross Reef and Subi reefs of the Spratly Islands.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer also warned that China intends to annex an island with 200 inhabitants including civilians and soldiers. “They were able to seal off the area, preventing planes from landing on the island,” said the newspaper. In the ensuing media battle, Chinese state media has accused the newspaper’s claims of “hyping up” the story with “groundless” claims.
Meanwhile, state media is sticking to its story:
The South China Sea islands and reefs are all inherently Chinese territory since ancient times, construction on our own territory is understandable. The construction is mainly for improving the conditions of our soldiers and consolidating national defense, to better safeguard our territorial waters, territorial integrity, within the framework of international law to better fulfill its international obligations.
Chinese state media also accuses Philippine media of fabricating claims that Chinese satellites are blocking communications signals to South China Sea islands. It quotes columnist Federico D. Pascual Jr. writing in the Philippine Star: “Not satisfied to grab land, sea and airspace from neighboring countries, outer space orbit satellite communication belonging to the Philippines have also been occupied by China.”
According to state media, journalists are wrong to accuse the Chinese military of occupying the Philippines’ satellite orbit path in space. Paraphrasing online sources, state media say many East Asian nations have a number of satellites, but the Philippines has none active and relies mostly on foreign satellites for communication.
Over the summer, the United States took the step of flying surveillance planes over the disputed airspace where China was building military bases on artificial islands in order to send a clear message about what the U.S. thinks about China’s territorial claims in the region.
China hasn’t responded quite the way that the U.S. had hoped to American shows of strength and it now looks like we can look forward to yet another Paradise Island in the South China Sea and yet another travel hub in the region.
by Daniel Cunningham