Reuters Staff April 18, 2018
MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines may lodge a protest with China against the reported presence of two military aircraft on a Chinese-built island in the South China Sea, the top Philippine diplomat said, amid concern that China is militarizing the waterway.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer published pictures on Wednesday that it said showed two military transport aircraft on the tarmac of Mischief Reef, which the Philippines claims.
The reef is the closest of the artificial islands that China has developed to the Philippines, and within its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The newspaper said the photos were taken in January this year. Reuters could not verify the authenticity or date of the pictures.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters the defense and military establishments had been asked to confirm the presence of the aircraft, after which the Philippines could ask China to explain it.
“Filing a protest is one of the diplomatic actions being considered, pending a confirmation from the defense department,” Cayetano said, adding the Philippines has proposed claimants reverse defense enhancements in the Spratly islands.
“Many claimants are putting embankments, radar, and other defensive mechanisms, the challenge now is how to stop it and roll it back,” he added.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway where about $3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the sea.
The Inquirer showed what it said were surveillance photos obtained from an unnamed source, showing what appeared to be two Xian Y-7 transport planes.
The military declined to comment and China’s embassy in Manila did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
China’s Defence Ministry also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cayetano said claimants were talking to each other as well as “non-regional players” to resolve disputes and avoid a regional arms race.
China and Southeast Asian countries started negotiations in Vietnam last month on a code of conduct in the South China Sea, starting with “less sensitive and less controversial” issues, he said.
Cayetano said they had identified common issues before discussing contentious provisions, such as whether the code would be legally binding and include sanctions against offenders.
He said there was no time frame for conclusion and adoption of the code.
The drafting of the code has been met with widespread scepticism, with some experts convinced China’s uncharacteristic support for it is aimed at placating Southeast Asian states while buying time to completes its military installations in the sea.
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel
Source: Reuters “Philippines verifying photos of China military aircraft on reef”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Mil.news.sina.com.cn provides the above most recent HD photos of China artificial islands showing hangars for warplanes have been completed on the islands with airstrips.
According to PLA media, J-11BHs have already been deployed on Yongxing Island. It is expected J-11 deployment will soon be extended to Yongshu (Fiery Cross), Subi and Meiji (Mischief) Islands.
Source: mil.news.sina.com.cn “Newest photos of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea: Hangars completed for deployment of J-11 fighter jets” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
Washington Free Beacon says in its report “China Steps Up Naval Presence Near Key Disputed Island” on August 11 that according to above new satellite photos made public by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), China has deployed fighter jets and other warplanes and built hangars for them on the artificial islands it has built on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross Reefs in the South China Sea.
The report says, “The three islets are being prepared for hangar space for 24 fighter jets along with three to four larger planes.” However, it says, “Contrary to press reports, the hangars are not hardened against attack. Instead, the aircraft storage facilities are fortified against the frequent storms that pass through the South China Sea.”
It quotes a US defense official as saying that the new facilities are significant military buildup as the hangars can be used to service and repair Chinese warplanes to enable their deployment on the islands permanently.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Washington Free Beacon’s report, full text of which can be viewed at http://freebeacon.com/national-security/china-steps-naval-presence-near-key-disputed-island/
Sina.com web users find some mystic beehive-shaped structures on China’s artificial islands on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross Reefs. The above are photos of the mystic structures on and map of Subi Reef. The following 8 photos show the mystic structures on and maps of Mischief and Fiery Cross Reefs.
Source: mil.news.sina.com.cn “Satellite photos disclose the appearance of mystic beehive-shaped structures on artificial islands in the South China Sea” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
On July 12, I had a post titled “Airports on Artificial Islands on Mischief, Subi Reefs Operational” about landing of a Chinese civilian aircraft on the airports on the artificial islands China has built on Subi and Mischief Reefs to conduct successful calibration tests on the newly built airports there.
Today, China’s news.cn posted a report with the above photos on the landing of two civilian aircrafts of China Southern Airline landing on the reefs.
The two aircrafts took off at Meilan International Airport, Haikou, Hainan Province respectively at 8:30 am and 8:40 am on July 13 and landed nearly two hours later respectively at Mischief Reef at 10:29 am and at Subi Reef at 10:28 am.
The report says that the airports on the reefs will facilitate people’s travel to Nansha (Spratly) Islands and provide such public services as weather forecast for aircrafts, marine disaster relief, emergency medical aids, marine survey and environmental monitor. They may also provide alternative landing facilities for airliners passing through the South China Sea.
Source: news.cn “Chinese aircrafts land on Subi and Mischief Reefs” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) says in its report less than an hour ago that Chinese government has commissioned a Chinese civilian aircraft to conduct successful calibration tests on the newly built airports on the artificial islands that China has built on Subi and Mischief Reefs
According to Xinhua, the data collected by the flight prove that the two airports are capable of ensuring safe operation of civilian airliners. They will facilitate people’s travel to Nansha (Spratly) Islands and emergency and medical aids and provide alternative landing facilities for airliners passing through the South China Sea.
Source: RTHK “Chinese aircraft successfully conducted calibration tests on the new airports on Mischief and Subi Reefs” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
According to war.163.com’s report today, the areas of artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea are respectively: Mischief Reef, 4.36 square kilometers; Subi Reef, 3.60; Fiery Cross Reef, 2.51; Cuarteron Reef, 0.212; Gavan Reef, 0.126; Johnson South Reef, 0.105 and Hughes Reef, 0.074.
Source: war.163.com “Island making in the South China Sea from the angle of excavators: Salute to great construction workers” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
I said in my post “Too Late for Philippines’ Two-way Talks with China on Maritime Dispute” on February 13:
China has developed enough anti-ship missiles to resist the attack from US aircraft carrier battle groups, but the US is still able to attack China with its attack nuclear submarines from the South China Sea where sea is deep enough for such submarines to maneuver. However, the submarines will be detected by China after they have launched the attack. They need the protection of fighter jets from Philippine military bases. In order to deal with US air force from the Philippines, China has been building its largest artificial island on Mischief Reef.
Note: The island on Mischief Reef is the largest at the South China Sea with an area of 5.52 square kilometers now. It is located the nearest to the Philippines.
In fact, before China realized the need to deal with such submarine attack with air protection from Filipino bases, China focused on building its artificial island on Fiery Cross Reef for control of the South China Sea. The construction of the artificial island on Mischief Reef began much later, but due to the strategic importance of the artificial island on Mischief Reef for China’s national security, the construction there has become China’s first priority. As a result, China said it would soon complete its land reclamation on some reefs in mid July 2015 and according to satellite photos, it had indeed finished the reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef by September 2015. However, it continued to conduct large-scale land reclamation on Mischief Reef.
In its report “U.S. admiral warns against Chinese fighter flights from South China Sea runways” yesterday, Reuters provides a photo taken in January that shows how much China did in its land reclamation there since June 2015. We provide the photo on top of this post.
The photos below show the artificial island in May and June last year. Compared with the above photo taken in January, we see how much land reclamation had been done since May 2015.
China is building a runway 2.6 km long on the artificial island on Mischief Reef according to Wikipedia. China said its artificial islands were mainly for civil purposes. Do you believe that? No one will build a civilian airport on an island without civilian population. Even if there is civilian population the size of the island of only 5.52 square kilometers does not justify the construction of a civilian airport there. Therefore, it is very clear that the artificial island on Mischief Reef has been built for China’s national security.
Reuters says in its report:
Any move by China to fly jet fighters from runways on its new man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea would be destabilizing and would not deter U.S. flights over the area, a senior U.S. naval officer said on Monday.
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, also urged Beijing to be more open over its intentions in the South China Sea, saying it would relieve “some of the angst we are now seeing”.
The island can be turned into a military base whenever necessary as China can build all the necessary facilities there now mostly secretly. The US can do nothing no matter what angst it has.
The fact now is that with its artificial islands, China has geographical advantages at the South China Sea if a war breaks out there.
Comments by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, the full text of which can be viewed at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-china-idUSKCN0VO1BP
The above are January 8 satellite photos of China artificial islands on Mischief and Subi Reefs provided by US think tank Center of Strategic and International Study (CSIS).