South China Sea: Beijing Builds Third Airstrip; ‘Worrying For The Philippines,’ Says US Official
A third Beijing airstrip is seemingly materializing in the South China Sea, according to satellite photographs taken for the Center for Strategic and International Studies or CSIS. The images show the airstrip, which measures 3,000 meters long, is being constructed on Mischief Reef, which is one among the artificial islands built by China.
According to Greg Poling, director of CSIS’s Asia maritime Transparency Initiative or AMTI, the new airstrip is the third among two similar structures built by China on Subi and Fiery Cross. “Clearly, what we have seen is going to be a 3,000-meter airstrip and we have seen some more work on what is clearly going to be some port facilities for ships,” Poling was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Poling noted that a third airstrip will be particularly worrying for the Philippines. He further explained that the strip will give China access over Reed Bank where significant Philippine oil and gas exploration are taking place. Analysts who have spoken with Reuters were keen in saying that once this third airstrip is done, China will have all means to rule over air traffic in the region.
U.S. had long since been vocal of its objection against Chinese activities in the region it deemed as aggression. However, China remains adamant. During the Defense and Security Equipment International conference in London, China’s vice admiral of the North Sea Fleet for the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Yuan Yubai, declared that South China Sea “belongs to China.”
Yubai was speaking before an audience that includes U.S. navy Rear Admiral Jeff Harley, assistant deputy chief of naval operations, plans and strategy; and Umio Otsuka, president of the Japanese Maritime self-Defense Force. According to a report from Defense One, Yubai presented a PowerPoint where slides showed the South China Sea map with colored dots. These dots were representative of Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia that are also upholding territorial ownership in the region. The title of the PowerPoint presentation is “Reclamations in the South China Sea,” Defense One reported.
“The South China Sea, as the name indicated, is a sea area, it belongs to China,” Yubai told his audience. He further explained that China is already working with U.S. to establish a code of conduct for air traffic in the region.
“I believe after this code of conduct is successfully passed, all the neighboring countries around this area will have good communication with each other whenever such unexpected encounters occur,” Yubai said.