Satellite photos ‘show weapons’ built on islands

After an international tribunal ruled that China had no right to claim the contested islands and island chains in the South China Sea, China ignored the ruling and continued building on them.

From the BBC.

South China Sea: Satellite photos ‘show weapons’ built on islands

Hughes Reef. Image copyrightAMTI
Hughes Reef. Image copyright AMTI

New photographic evidence has emerged of “significant” Chinese military defences on artificial islands in the South China Sea, a think tank reports.

China had previously committed to not militarising its controversial developments in the region.

But satellite images published by a US group appear to show anti-aircraft guns and missile defence systems on the seven islands.

Several countries claim territorial rights in the South China Sea.

In a report on Wednesday, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said it had been tracking construction of hexagon-shaped buildings on four of the Spratly islands for several months.

Johnson Reef. Image copyright AMTI
Johnson Reef. Image copyright AMTI

It said the new buildings were an “evolution” of structures on the three other islands, but it was now confident that all of the buildings housed military defences.

The group says that some buildings “host what are most likely anti-aircraft guns” which have visible gun barrels in satellite images, while others are probably what it terms close-in weapons systems (CIWS).

CIWS are defence platforms used to detect and shoot down missiles and other aircraft.

Some of the structures have been buried, the group said – which would make them less vulnerable to enemy strikes.

Cuarteron Reef. Image copyright AMTI
Cuarteron Reef. Image copyright AMTI

“These gun and probable CIWS emplacements show that Beijing is serious about defence of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea,” AMTI said.

“Among other things, they would be the last line of defence against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases,” it added, in a reference to previous photos which seemed to show aircraft hangars being built.

China’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday that its deployment of military equipment was “legitimate and lawful”. A brief post on the Defence Ministry’s microblog site described the equipment as necessary and defensive.

During his state visit to the US in September 2015, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said China did not intend to pursue militarisation of the Spratly islands but emphasised China’s sovereignty over the region.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) operates in the South China Sea near the disputed Paracel Islands. Image copyright REUTERS
Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) operates in the South China Sea near the disputed Paracel Islands. Image copyright REUTERS
The USS Decatur sailed near the disputed Paracel Islands

The contested region holds crucial shipping lanes – which prompted the United States to send a warship into the area in October.

The White House said it was to “demonstrate … lawful uses of the sea that the United States and all states are entitled to exercise under international law.”

China accused the US of an illegal act, and of being “intentionally provocative”.

Map showing the South China Sea. Source: UNCLOS, CIA
Map showing the South China Sea. Source: UNCLOS, CIA

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including reefs and islands also claimed by other nations, and has caused dismay in the region by building artificial islands and restricting access.

But Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims.

In July, an international tribunal ruled against Chinese claims to rights in the South China Sea, backing a case brought by the Philippines.

China, however, called the ruling “ill-founded” and says it will not be bound by it.


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I began writing Elle's Adventure in China (EACh) in June 2014 as a fun summer project, but as obstacles kept interfering with my plans, I forked and forked more options. I took writing this novel much more seriously in mid-July, and want to have it officially published someday in my lifetime. As many artists put their hearts into their projects, so do I. I did not start out liking to read, but a professor suggested a book for me for homework a few years ago, and it was an amazing book. Since then, I read for pleasure, and I hope my novel, Elle's Adventure in China, does the same for as many of you as possible. The same thing goes to writing. I did not like to write until I took a course where the professor and papers made me love to write. I hope every one of you find what makes you happy and dedicated to work. In May 2015, I started my other blog, Read and Write Here (R&WH), as a place to post other things that aren't China- and Chinese culture-related and not EACh. I share some of my memories and experiences from student teaching, irregular participation in Daily Prompts, etc. I'd like to have regular people and bloggers to write book reviews and post it on R&WH someday. Keep reading and writing!

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