US asks China to stop building Spratlys island which could host airfield

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China is building a massive island in the South China Sea that could host an airfield in an area where Beijing is locked in bitter territorial disputes with neighbouring states, a US military spokesman said Friday.

The vast land reclamation project on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, known in China as Yongshu Reef, is one of several pursued by China but the first that could accommodate an airstrip, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Pool said.

A harbour also has been dug out on the east side of the reef that appears large enough for tankers and naval warships.

The United States wants China to halt the project and for other governments to cease similar efforts.

“We urge China to stop its land reclamation program, and engage in diplomatic initiatives to encourage all sides to restrain themselves in these sorts of activities,” Pool said.

The results of the dredging are captured in satellite pictures obtained by IHS Jane’s that cover a period between August 8 and November 14.

“The land reclamation at Fiery Cross is the fourth such project undertaken by China in the Spratly Islands in the last 12-18 months and by far the largest in scope,” the report said.

China already has built islands at Johnson South Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Gaven Reefs, which the Chinese call Chigua, Huayang, and Nanxun, respectively.

Beijing claims nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have asserted their own claims by building structures on reefs or occupying islands.

China argues it has sovereign control over almost all of the South China Sea, a vital shipping route that is believed to hold lucrative oil and gas deposits.

Full article: US asks China to stop building Spratlys island which could host airfield (South China Morning Post)

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