Website reveals future warship deployment to Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal
China’s plan for a new military buildup on a disputed island near the Philippines shows the future deployment of Chinese warships close to where U.S. naval forces will be stationed in the future.
Details of the militarization plan for Scarborough Shoal in the Spratly Islands were obtained by U.S. intelligence agencies over the last several months, according to defense officials.
The plans were confirmed last month when a website for Chinese military enthusiasts posted a detailed dredging plan for Scarborough Shoal, including a runway, power systems, residences, and harbor capable of supporting Chinese navy warships.
The shoal is located about 150 miles from the Philippines’ coast. It is claimed by Manila but has been under Beijing’s control since 2012.
Disclosure of the buildup plan for the shoal is the latest element of a dispute that has pitted the United States and regional states against China.
China is engaged in what U.S. government officials have said is a gradual attempt to take over the entire South China Sea. The Pentagon has said the takeover threatens $5.3 trillion annually in international trade that passes through what are legally international waters but that China asserts are its sovereign territory.
The plan to develop and militarize Scarborough Shoal, however, has set off alarm bells in both the Pentagon and State Department because of the area’s proximity to the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally that recently agreed to enhance defense cooperation in the face of Chinese aggression.
Last month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson voiced concerns about expanded Chinese activities on Scarborough Shoal. “I think we see some surface ship activity and those sorts of things, survey type of activity, going on,” Richardson told Reuters. “That’s an area of concern … a next possible area of reclamation.”
The website included satellite photographs purportedly based on a construction bid proposed by the “Huangyan Island Township,” a municipality created under what China claims is its regional authority on Sansha Island, located near China’s Hainan Island.
A graphic with one photo outlined the development plan, with three Chinese guided-missile frigates at a wharf at the southern opening of the shoal.
Other features include an airport and runway at the northern end, an electrical plan, a water treatment plant, a residential building, a hotel, and a “travel holiday” area.
The post appeared on the website Super Camp Military Forum March 9. Chinese authorities have used such websites to disclose new military developments in the past.
Defense officials said it is not clear whether the post reflects the actual plan of development or an earlier, conceptual stage.
One official, however, said there is specific intelligence indicating China has clear plans to build an island out of the shoal and place military forces on it.
The graphic is labeled “invitation to bid” and is based on a press release published online Dec. 15 by Tianjin Dredging Co., a subsidiary of the China Communications Construction Company.
Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief, said he has been closely watching Scarborough Shoal since April 2012, when China took control of the area after a standoff with the Philippines.
“It would take literally very little effort for China to come in with the same resources and tools that they used at the seven reclaimed islands in the Spratly Islands, and do the same kind of dredging and work to build an ‘island’” at the shoal, Fanell said.
China also has been eyeing Reed Bank, located just north of the Spratly’s Second Thomas Shoal.
“This is another signal that China intends to complete its ‘Wall of Sand’ to close off the South China Sea to whomever it chooses,” said Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
Full article: China Outlines Plan for Military Buildup on Disputed Island (Washington Free Beacon)