The Phaserl


China’s Artificial Islands in Before-and-After Photos

by Karen Friar, Market Watch:

The U.S. has sent a warship into waters close to artificial islands claimed by China, turning up the temperature in a long-simmering dispute over Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea.

Since at least 2013, China has been carrying out a project to build artificial islands and military bases in those waters, on a huge scale and a fast pace. By June, China had constructed or reclaimed 2,900 acres of land, The Wall Street Journal reported; three months earlier, the figure stood at 2,000 acres.

The areas of development are hundreds of miles off China’s coast, in what the U.S. considers international waters. But Beijing has laid claim to almost all of the South China Sea, despite opposition from countries like the Philippines. International observers have been tracking Beijing’s empire-building in those waters. For a look at the scope of China’s land reclamation, and a sense of its ambitions, check out these images.

This shows a view of a runway under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, where dredgers began work in August 2014, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

In September, construction wrapped on the runway, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported. The reclaimed land is China’s most important base in those waters, and the runway would allow Chinese military to conduct more air patrols meant to enforce its territorial ambitions.

This before-and-after image shows the scale of China’s land reclamation in another part of the Spratlys, Johnson South Reef.

The island has been built on a submerged reef in the Union Banks, the AMTI says. The reef itself was only 7.2 square kilometers; it has been expanded to add another 100,000 square meters.

One of the U.S.’s objections to China’s claims in the South China Sea is that in some cases, they are based on reefs that used to be underwater at high tide. That undermines any territorial claims, Washington has said.

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