China needs 3rd runway in Spratly Islands to break US grip in South China Sea if tensions escalate, experts say

Comments come after US think tank says satellite imagery indicates preparatory work on third airstrip in Spratly Islands, on Mischief Reef

Beijing needs to build a third airstrip in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands to meet its long-term strategic goal of being a true blue-water navy, Chinese military experts say.

Their remarks came after the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in the United States said satellite imagery taken on September 8 showed China appeared to be carrying out preparatory work for a third runway, this time on Mischief Reef.

Mischief Reef is one of seven artificial islands China has created in the Spratly archipelago.

Greg Poling, director of CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said the latest images showed a retaining wall around an area 3,000 metres long, matching similar work by China on two other reefs in the Spratlys – at Fiery Cross and Subi.

A retired Chinese naval official who requested anonymity said the airstrips would help the navy to break the stronghold the US military maintained in the South China Sea, with help from regional allies like the Philippines and Australia.

“If the PLA wants to achieve its naval supremacy over the South China Sea [in case there is a war], it’s a must for the navy to get air control over the Spratly Islands, which is the sole gateway for the Chinese navy to enter the Western Pacific,” the retired naval officer said.

Full article: China needs 3rd runway in Spratly Islands to break US grip in South China Sea if tensions escalate, experts say (South China Morning Post)

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