US military says reclamation now totals more than 1,170 hectares, compared to an earlier estimate of 800 hectares
China has reclaimed more land in the disputed Spratly islands of the South China Sea than previously known, according to a new Pentagon report, which says Beijing is also completing construction of a runway on one of its seven man-made outposts.
Once the airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef was operational, China could potentially use it as an alternative runway for carrier-based planes, allowing the PLA to conduct “sustained operations” with aircraft carriers in the area, the report said.
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has carried out exercises in the South China Sea but is not yet fully operational. Some experts believe China will deploy domestically built carriers by 2020 as part of plans to develop an ocean-going “blue water” navy.
At the reclamation sites in the Spratlys where China was in the building phase, it has excavated deep channels and constructed new berthing areas to allow access for larger ships, said the report, called the “Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy”.
“The infrastructure China appears to be building would enable it to establish a more robust power projection presence into the South China Sea,” it added.
China had reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months than the other claimants combined over the past 40 years, accounting for approximately 95 per cent of all reclaimed land in the Spratlys, it added.
“China is unilaterally altering the physical status quo in the region, thereby complicating diplomatic initiatives that could lower tensions,” said the report.
Full article: China’s land reclamation in South China Sea grows, claims Pentagon report (South China Morning Post)