Philippines verifying photos of China military aircraft on reef


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.


U.S. warship drill meant to defy China’s claim over artificial island –officials


The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey prepares for a replenishment-at-sea in the South China Sea May 19, 2017. Picture taken May 19, 2017. Kryzentia Weiermann/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

By Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON Thu May 25, 2017 | 4:04pm EDT

A U.S. warship carried out a “maneuvering drill” when it sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, to show Beijing it was not entitled to a territorial sea around it, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
The operation near Mischief Reef on Thursday, Pacific time, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has disputes with its neighbors, was the boldest U.S. challenge yet to Chinese island-building in the strategic waterway.

It drew an angry response from China, which President Donald Trump has tried to court in recent weeks to persuade it to take a tougher line on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. [nL1N1IQ2FH]

Analysts say previous U.S. “freedom-of-navigation operations” in the Spratly archipelago involved “innocent passage,” in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily, without stopping.

On Thursday, the destroyer USS Dewey conducted a “man overboard” exercise, specifically to show that its passage within 12 nautical miles was not innocent passage, U.S. officials said.

“USS Dewey engaged in normal operations by conducting a maneuvering drill inside 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The ship’s actions demonstrated that Mischief Reef is not entitled to its own territorial sea regardless of whether an artificial island has been built on top of it.”

It drew an angry response from China, which President Donald Trump has tried to court in recent weeks to persuade it to take a tougher line on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. [nL1N1IQ2FH]

Analysts say previous U.S. “freedom-of-navigation operations” in the Spratly archipelago involved “innocent passage,” in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily, without stopping.

On Thursday, the destroyer USS Dewey conducted a “man overboard” exercise, specifically to show that its passage within 12 nautical miles was not innocent passage, U.S. officials said.

“USS Dewey engaged in normal operations by conducting a maneuvering drill inside 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The ship’s actions demonstrated that Mischief Reef is not entitled to its own territorial sea regardless of whether an artificial island has been built on top of it.”

Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said that freedom of navigation operations are not specific to one country and the Defense Department would release summaries of these operations in an annual report and not sooner.

“We are continuing regular FONOPS, as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” Ross said, using an acronym for freedom of navigation operations.

The Pentagon has not confirmed the most recent operation.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea and Washington has criticized its construction of islands and build-up of military facilities there, concerned they could be used to restrict free movement and broaden Beijing’s strategic reach.

U.S. allies and partners in the region had grown anxious as the Trump administration held off on carrying out South China Sea operations during its first few months in office.

Greg Poling of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank said that under international law, Mischief Reef was not entitled to a territorial sea as it was underwater at high tide before it was built up by China.

“This was a statement to the Chinese,” he said.

“The previous two freedom-of-navigation operations only challenged China’s demand for prior notification for innocent passage through the territorial sea; this one asserted that there is no territorial sea at all.”

The Trump administration vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations after President Barack Obama was criticized for potentially reinforcing China’s claims by sticking to innocent passage.

Even so, this was the first freedom-of-navigation operation since October and since Trump took office in January.

It comes ahead of a visit to Singapore next week by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to discuss security with regional counterparts.

Beijing said two Chinese guided-missile warships had warned the U.S. vessel to leave the waters and that it had lodged “stern representations” with the United States.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish and Marguerita Choy)

Source: Reuters “U.S. warship drill meant to defy China’s claim over artificial island –officials”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Recent Photos of Artificial Islands with Hangars for Warplanes


Subi Island on November 10 with hangars completed at both ends of its airstrip ready for deployment of warplanes and ships in lagoon carrying on construction

Subi Island on November 10 with hangars completed at both ends of its airstrip ready for deployment of warplanes and ships in lagoon carrying on construction

Yongshu (Fiery Croass) Island on November 10 with hangars completed at both ends of its airstrip ready for deployment of warplanes

Yongshu (Fiery Croass) Island on November 10 with hangars completed at both ends of its airstrip ready for deployment of warplanes

Dongmen Island (Hughes Reef) with not many buildings and plants covering land without buildings. The island serves as an alert platform.

Dongmen Island (Hughes Reef) with not many buildings and plants covering land without buildings. The island serves as an alert platform.

Huayang Island (Cuarteron Reef) on November 10 mostly covered by plants

Huayang Island (Cuarteron Reef) on November 10 mostly covered by plants

Meiji Island (Mischief Reef) with airstrip completed.

Meiji Island (Mischief Reef) on Novembe 15 with airstrip completed. Photo: South Sea Research Forum

Chigua Island (Johnson South Reef) on November 10

Chigua Island (Johnson South Reef) on November 10

Nanxiong Island (Gaven Reefs) on November 10

Nanxiong Island (Gaven Reefs) on November 10

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)


China Has Deployed Warplanes on Its Artificial Islands


CSIS satellite photos showing deployment of fighter jets and other warplanes on China's artificial islands on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross Reefs

CSIS satellite photos showing deployment of fighter jets and other warplanes on China’s artificial islands on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross Reefs

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/


Mystic New Beehive-shaped Structures on China’s Artificial Islands


Mystic structure on Subi Reef

Mystic structure on Subi Reef

One more mystic structure on Subi Reef

One more mystic structure on Subi Reef

A third mystic structure on Subi Reef

A third mystic structure on Subi Reef

Map of Subi Reef showing the tower, hangars and mystic structures suspected as beehive-shaped water purification facilities

Map of Subi Reef showing the tower, hangars and mystic structures suspected as beehive-shaped water purification facilities

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.

Mystic structure on Mischief Reef

One more mystic structure on Mischief Reef
A third mystic structure on Mischief Reef

Structures on Mischief Reef

Structures on Mischief Reef

Mystic structure on Fiery Cross Reef
One more mystic structure on Fiery Cross ReefA third mystic structure on Fiery Cross Reef

Structures on Fiery Cross Reef

Structures on Fiery Cross Reef

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)


Photos of Chinese Aircrafts Landing on Airports on Subi, Mischief Reefs


Chinese civilian aircraft landing on Mischief Reef airport. news.cn photo

Chinese civilian aircraft landing on Mischief Reef airport. news.cn photo

Chinese civilian aircraft landing on Subi Reef airport. News.cn photo

Chinese civilian aircraft landing on Subi Reef airport. News.cn photo

Photo of crew and passengers of an airliner landed on one of the two reefs

Photo of crew and passengers of a civilian aircraft landed on one of the two reefs. Photo: weibo.com/caacnews1

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)


Airports on Artificial Islands on Mischief, Subi Reefs Operational


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)


New Photos of China’s Artificial Islands in South China Sea


Map of layout of China's airfields on its three artificial islands

Map of layout of China’s airfields on its three artificial islands

Expanded Yongxing Island after land reclamation on January 9, 2016

Expanded Yongxing Island after land reclamation on January 9, 2016

Expanded Yongshu Island after land reclamation on January 8, 2016

Expanded Yongshu Island after land reclamation on January 8, 2016

January 8 photo of the artificial island built on Subi Reef

January 8 photo of the artificial island built on Subi Reef

Busy construction on artificial islands

Busy construction on artificial islands

Busy construction on artificial islands

Busy construction on artificial islands

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)


China Built Largest Island to Deal with US Warplanes from Filipino Bases


The artificial island at the southern end of Mischief Reef showing a newly-built seawall on its north side and a completed dock are shown in this Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative January 8, 2016 satellite image released to Reuters on January 15, 2016. REUTERS/CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/Digital Globe/Handout via Reuters/Files

The artificial island at the southern end of Mischief Reef showing a newly-built seawall on its north side and a completed dock are shown in this Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative January 8, 2016 satellite image released to Reuters on January 15, 2016. REUTERS/CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/Digital Globe/Handout via Reuters/Files

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.

Mischief Reef in May and June 2015

Mischief Reef in May and June 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


New Satellite Photos of China’s South China Sea Artificial Islands


Mischief Reef on January 8, 2016

Mischief Reef on January 8, 2016

Mischief Reef on January 8, 2016

Mischief Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

Subi Reef on January 8, 2016

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).