South China Sea Dispute: What Is China’s Gaofen-3 Doing In Contested Region?

South China Sea Dispute: What Is China’s Gaofen-3 Doing In Contested Region?
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When it comes to the South China Sea territorial dispute, China is taking matters one step further by making sure they can readily see all activities happening in the said area at all times.


On Wednesday, China launched the Gaofen-3. It is China’s first synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite that is going to be used to help protect the country’s maritime rights, among others. The said satellite will also be used for weather forecasting, disaster warnings and water resource assessments.

Gaofen-3 Ready To Monitor South China Sea Dispute

According to a report from F.World, the Gaofen-3 satellite features as much as 12 imaging modes. A report from state-run news agency Xinhua reported that this particular satellite is capable of providing a 24-hour observation service across any kind of weather.

Moreover, it is a high-resolution satellite, which means it can readily take details photos of specific areas on Earth. The Gaofen-3 was developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology and China Academy of Space Technology under the guidance of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

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When it comes to the South China Sea dispute, Gaofen-3 project head Xu Fuxiang told China Daily that the new satellite will be of much use to China. “It will play an important role in monitoring the marine environment, and islands and reefs, as well as ships and oil rigs,” he explained.

Launch Happened Just As A U.S. Guided Missile Destroyer Is Visiting China

The satellite launch by China comes just as the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Benfold is visiting its Qingdao province. During the visit, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift told Chinese fleet commander Vice. Adm. Yuan Yubai that there must be “transparency, parity and reciprocity” in order to improve the relationship between the Pacific Fleet and China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy).

U.S. Ships Continue South China Sea Patrols

While the USS Benfold was making its scheduled port visit, the amphibious U.S. assault ship USS Boxer conducted a routine patrol of the international waters in the South China Sea. Prior to that, dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry also conducted a similar patrol.

According to commander of the Amphibious Squadron 1 Capt. Patrick Foege, “Our routine presence here helps promote the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all countries.”

In response to these patrols, China’s Ministry of Defense has said that freedom of navigation missions done by the U.S. “provokes China politically and militarily.”

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