|Vittorio Hernandez |||Nov 22, 2014 11:01 PM EST|
(Photo : Reuters) Vietnamese fishing boats are seen near Da Tay island in the Spratly archipelago January 5, 2013.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III shook hands at the recent APEC Summit in Beijing, raising hopes that the two Asian nations would be able to settle their territorial dispute through diplomacy.
However, despite the loose agreement, satellite images showed that China is building an island on a reef which appears to be big enough to be an offshore airstrip in the Spratlys that Beijing and Manila are claiming. Besides the two nations, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia are also claiming the islands.
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IHS Jane, a defense magazine, said that according to its satellite image, the construction measures 3,000 meters long and 200-300 meters wide. In the last 12 to 18 months, it is China's fourth land reclamation projected in the Spratly Islands and the largest, noted IHS Jane.
The construction is at the Fiery Cross Reef where there are existing Chinese garrison, port, air-defense weapons, anti-frogmen defense, communication devices and a greenhouse. China plans to establish an air base in Fiery Cross Reef, according to the Hong Kong press, but the deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Boundary and Ocean Affairs Departments claimed in August that he is not aware of those plans.
Col. Jin Zhirui from the Chinese air force command did not confirm the construction when he was asked at a defense forum on Saturday in Beijing, but justified China's activities in the South China Sea. He said, quoted by Daily Times, "We need to go out, to make our contribution to regional and land peace ... We need support like this, including radar and intelligence."
The U.S. has called on all nations involved in the territorial dispute to stop all activities to lessen tension, China has thumbed down Washington and insisted it could "build whatever it wants in the South China Sea."
Commenting on China's intransigence, IHS Jane wrote, "Given its massive military advantage, this new islands appears purpose-built to coerce other claimants into relinquishing their claims and possessions, or at least provide China with a much stronger negotiating position if talks over the dispute were ever held."
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