— Internet News

South China Sea military presence grows amid US, Australia pushback

Satellite photos have revealed alarming – and “nefarious” – new details of what Beijing is getting up to in the South China Sea. Satellite photos show a military radar surveillance aircraft, anti-submarine aircraft, and an armed navy intelligence ship at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. This is odd if you believe Beijing’s assertions that these massive island fortresses are purely for civilian search and rescue purposes. Since 2012, China has engaged in a dramatic building program in the Paracel and Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

The problem is it doesn’t own these sites.

But that hasn’t stopped Beijing from constructing a vast network of fortresses – many with large airfields, hardened hangars, and armored towers holding weapons – in the name of “search and rescue”.

China has repeatedly insisted it has no intention to militarise the fortresses sitting among waters claimed by nations including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

South China Sea military

Nobody believed them.

And more evidence of Beijing’s “nefarious” intentions has recently come to light. New satellite images from Google’s supplier Maxar show a gathering of military equipment on one of Beijing’s most significant artificial island outposts – Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.

According to an analysis by the US Naval Institute, they reveal a naval warship – specifically a Type-815G surveillance ship – anchored in its lagoon. And sitting on its 3.3km long runway were a Y-8Q anti-submarine patrol aircraft and a KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AWAC) aircraft. And despite a recent blanket fishing ban issued by Beijing, many “fishing” vessels were also clustered nearby.

Fiery Cross

Beijing may be increasing its military presence in the Spratly Islands due to recent international “pushback”.

This year, the United States has increased its activities in the waters, with multiple visits by its aircraft carrier battle groups and “Freedom of Navigation Operations” by its warships.

European powers such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have also made their presence felt in support of the United Nations law of the sea. As has Australia and Canada.

And directly affected nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam show signs of being encouraged by such support by openly defying their overbearing neighbor.

In the middle of it sits Fiery Cross Reef.

It’s one of seven heavily armed artificial island fortresses Beijing has scattered throughout the shoals, reefs, and rocky outcrops that are the Spratlys in recent years.

Just on the horizon to its south is Thitu Island, known to the Philippines as Pag-asa Island. This 37-ha natural island is the site of a small Filipina fishing settlement and a run-down runway.

It’s also the subject of an ongoing Chinese fishing militia “blockade”.

And then there’s the nearby Whitsun Reef. This was the scene of a Chinese sit-in earlier this year, with more than 200 militia vessels tied up “sheltering from a storm” under perfect blue skies.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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