On Wednesday, Reuters and other worldwide media outlets reported, citing remarks by China’s foreign minister, that China had halted its island building project in the South China Sea
At the point when asked by columnists at a territorial discussion whether China would briefly end its island building in the South China Sea, Foreign Minister Wang Yi answered: “China has effectively halted. You simply take a plane to examine.” Consequently, numerous global media outlets ran headlines suggesting that China had halted construction of those islands.
But on the contrary, China has not stopped its reclamation project in the South China Sea, despite reports from the Chinese Foreign Ministry that they already did halted.
This is not the first time that this has been reported. Back in June, many international news outlets implied that China was halting its reclamation project in the South China Sea following a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry that said the island building project was nearing completion.
This is really what is happening in the South China Sea. Instead of stopping the island building project, China is just finishing the digging that has changed seven reefs and rocks in the Spratly Islands into seven new artificial islands. Subsequently, China has not respected worldwide weight and international pressure over its forceful island building plan, it has simply finished the first phase of the operation.
The next phase of the operation is to complete construction of military and civilian facilities on the newly-created islands. In many cases, this work is already well underway. For example, news reports suggest that China is nearly construction of a 3,000 meter airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef, which is now a sizeable island.
This is an audacious action. As the fabulous Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies has pointed out, this new airstrip is over twice the length of any current airstrips in the Spratly Islands. This has dismal military ramifications. For instance, a 3,000 meter airstrip will have the capacity to suit bomber aircraft, which none of the other existing airstrips in the region can do.
As the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative as of late noted, “Fiery Cross reef has a runway sufficiently long to land a Chinese H-6G bomber aircraft, using runway requirements derived from the Russian Tu-16K, and expecting that the runway has been fortified. An aircraft like this could perform combat battle operations inside of 3,500 miles of the reclaimed reef.”
Since China has finished the digging of the artificial islands, it can now concentrate a greater amount of its attention on building facilities like the Fiery Cross Reef airstrip that will permit Beijing to successfully militarize the islands. Actually, some analysts believe China will seek to build a second airstrip on Subi Reef, another feature that China has transformed into an artificial island.
Now that everybody knew that China so obsessed with building and creating “unsinkable aircraft carriers.” In other words, these islands will allow China to project power further away from the mainland in the southern part of the South China Sea, which Beijing claims nearly 90 percent of. Once phase 2 of its project is complete, these artificial islands will greatly enhance China’s capabilities to enforce its enormous claims.
While China almost certainly hopes that announcing the halting of the land reclamation projects will reduce criticism of its actions, its ASEAN neighbors, Japan and the United States are unlikely to be fooled. China is not changing its actions in response to pressure, it is merely proceeding as planned.
By: Jason E.