Photos Show That Chinese Military Bases Have Been Growing In South China Sea
It seemed to be one worried Pentagon report released Friday that showed satellite photos exhibiting China's rapidly growing military outposts on controversial islands in the South China Sea. They seemed to enhance the nation's presence in a region that was fraught with tension.
"China continues to invest in military programs and weapons designed to improve power projection, anti-access area denial, and operations in emerging domains such as cyberspace, space, and the electromagnetic spectrum," said Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.
China has added more than 3,200 acres to the seven sites it occupies in the South China Sea in the last couple of years.
The artificial island sites show that the country has dug deep channels to enhance its access to its outposts. It has also built up artificial harbors, dredged natural harbors and put up berthing areas so that large ships can access the areas, says Pentagon's annual China Military Power report.
With each of the three largest outposts housing an airfield, every one of them will also possess a runway that is 9,800 feet long, according to the report.
Even though under international law, the new constructions do not afford additional territorial or maritime rights, the worry is that they will enhance China's long-term presence in the region.
As this follows just a few days of Chinese fighter jets getting scrambled in response to the U.S. Navy sending a guided missile destroyer in a region of 12 miles from a controversial island, the report said that China seemed to be willing "to tolerate higher levels of tension" so that it can pursue its maritime sovereignty claims of last year.
"China's military modernization program entered a new phase in 2015," Denmark said, and assessed that "China's leaders seem committed to sustaining defense spending growth for the foreseeable future."
Over the last year, China has upgraded its weapons capabilities, according to the Pentagon. It has modernized "its short-medium-and-intermediate-range ballistic missiles, high-performance aircraft, integrated air defense networks, information operations capabilities and amphibious and airborne assault units."
In September 2015, China held a military parade and revealed its new "Guam killer" missile. This one can hit targets 3,400 miles away, including Guam, which is the site of US' military bases. It thus raises fears of growing Chinese threat to major U.S. military installations and stability in the Pacific regions.