September 20, 2020

Six reefs in disputed Spratlys turned into islets by China


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赤瓜礁-165036F_2014資料照片_copy1From Want China Times

China’s proactive campaign to assert its territorial claims over most of the has taken another step after satellite images revealed that six reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands have been effectively turned into islets through land reclamation over the last six months, reports our Chinese-language sister paper .

Since February, China has been busy sending construction teams to various reefs in the Spratlys, the most contested group of islands in the South China Sea, where the , Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and are also claimants. Sources have revealed that six of the reefs–Johnson South, Gaven, Cuarteron, Fiery Cross, Hughes and Eldad–have been transformed into islets, with all but Eldad Reef given specific “birthdays” in July by Chinese authorities.

Satellite images of Johnson South Reef from July indicate that China has added a new pier and planted coconut trees along with other new infrastructure such as roads and buildings, turning the once predominantly rocky and sandy reef into an apple-shaped white island. Google Earth images from late June still revealed a significant amount of construction equipment on the islet.

Analysts say China’s rapid land reclamation activities in the South China Sea have been made possible by its dominant resources and construction capabilities, which dwarf that of all the other claimants combined and that increasing infrastructure on the reefs also gives China a stronger claim over them.

“While our political leaders are busy squabbling, out there in the West Philippine Sea we are slowly losing our very territorial domain to China’s creeping invasion,” said a senior Philippine security official,

Philippine president Benigno Aquino III confirmed last week that China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea are continuing, and reiterated his call on Beijing to defuse tension in the disputed waters.

Aquino also said the Philippines would continue to push for arbitration before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and for a code of conduct to govern behavior in the region.

IMAGE: An aerial shot of the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea taken between late June and early July 2014. (Internet photo)

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