China island expansion moves ahead in South China Sea
China expands in South China Sea with construction of 290,000 sq mof facilities
BEIJING: China's large-scale land reclamation around disputed reefs and shoals in the South China Sea is "moving ahead steadily", state media has reported, and is on track to use giant "island-builders" to transform even more of the region.
Beijing claims nearly all of the sea and has been turning reefs in the Spratly and Paracel chains into islands, installing military facilities and equipment in the area where it has conflicting claims with neighbours.
"The course of construction is moving ahead steadily and a series of striking results have been achieved," according to a report that appeared last Friday on Haiwainet, a website under the Communist Party's flagship newspaper the People's Daily.
The projects have "changed the face of the South China Sea's islands and reefs", it said.
The campaign has been a source of contention with neighbouring countries. China's claims overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Throughout the year, China built 290,000 sq mof facilities on South China Sea reefs and islands, including underground storage, administrative buildings and large radar installations, the report said.
"To improve the livelihood and work conditions of people living on the islands and strengthen the necessary military defences of the South China Sea within China's sovereignty, China has rationally expanded the area of its islands and reefs," it said.
The sea is believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and US$5 trillion (S$6.7 trillion) in annual trade passes through it.
The report noted that with last month's introduction of the new super-dredger Tianjing, a "magical island building machine", and other "magical machines" soon to come, "the area of the South China Sea's islands and reefs will expand a step further".
China is also building a floating nuclear power plant, the report said, to provide power for those living in the Sansha city area.
Sansha lies on Woody Island in the Paracel chain - which is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan - and administers much of China's claims in the South China Sea. China established Sansha in 2012 by unilaterally awarding it 2 million sq km of sea and declaring it the country's largest city.
Earlier this month, a US think-tank released new satellite images showing deployment of radar and other equipment on the disputed islands.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said that over the course of 2017, China had been advancing the next phase of development with construction of infrastructure to support air and naval bases, such as underground storage areas and radar and sensor arrays. - AFP