China begins new work on disputed South China Sea island


Combination of satellite photos shows Chinese-controlled North Island, part of the Paracel Islands group in the South China Sea, on February 15, 2017 (top) and on March 6, 2017. Planet Labs/Handout via REUTERS

By Greg Torode | HONG KONG Tue Mar 14, 2017 | 7:10pm EDT

China has started fresh construction work in the disputed South China Sea, new satellite images show, a sign that Beijing is continuing to strengthen its military reach across the vital trade waterway.

Regional military attaches and experts believe the work shows China’s determination to build up its network of reefs and islets, even if it is seeking to avoid a fresh confrontation with the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

An image of North Island in the Paracels group taken on March 6 shows recent work including land clearing and possible preparation for a harbor to support what experts believe may be eventual military installations. Initial work was damaged in a typhoon last year.

The pictures, provided by private satellite firm Planet Labs, follow reports in January showing work undertaken on nearby Tree Island and other features in the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Diplomats briefed on latest Western intelligence assessments say Beijing is pursuing efforts to dominate its maritime ‘backyard’, even if it tweaks the timing of moves to avoid being overtly provocative.

“The Paracels are going to be vital to any future Chinese
attempt to dominate the South China Sea,” said Carl Thayer, a South China Sea expert at Australia’s Defence Force Academy.

“We can see they are committed to militarization, whatever the official rhetoric tells us, even if they are going to do it bit by bit.”

UNCERTAINTIES OVER TRUMP

The more widely disputed Spratlys archipelago to the south are higher profile but the Paracels are key to China’s presence in the South China Sea,

China has in recent years temporarily based surface-to-air missile launchers and crack jet fighters at long established bases on Woody Island on the Paracels, helping protect its nuclear submarine facilities on Hainan Island.

North Island is part of an arc of reefs that are expected to form a protective screen for Woody, which includes civilian facilities and a listening post.

Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, said he believed China was pursuing long-held goals of strengthening its facilities in the Paracels, and had calculated the Trump administration would not over-react given other pressing priorities.

“There’s also uncertainty with this young Trump administration, but this is very important work to the Chinese…the Paracels are vital to defending Hainan, which is in turn important to China’s nuclear deterrent,” he said.

“The calculation here is that it is really only Vietnam that will be rattled by this.”

The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China’s Defence Ministry said it was “not familiar” with any work at North Island.

“What needs to be stressed is that the Xisha Islands are China’s inherent territory,” it said, using the Chinese name for the Paracels. China fully occupied the Paracels in 1974 after forcing the navy of the-then South Vietnam off its holdings.

Also In South China Sea
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News of fresh Chinese activity comes as Rex Tillerson prepares for his first visit to the region as U.S. Secretary of State later this week. Tillerson sparked alarm in Beijing when he said in January China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the South China Sea.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, was unable to confirm new construction work on North Island but said it would not be surprising.

“It would be in line with what they have been doing, why else would they clearing land on the islands but for militarization,” the official said. “There is no other reason to have a presence there.”

Diplomatic sources in Beijing say China is not looking for confrontation with the United States over the South China Sea, pointing to China’s low-key reaction to last month’s patrol of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group in the waters there.

China has recently sought to portray itself as being conciliatory over the disputed waterway, saying it and Southeast Asian nations are committed to a peaceful resolution.

Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said a draft code of conduct for behavior in the South China Sea had now been completed and that tensions had “distinctly dropped”.

For a graphic of China’s reclamations in the Paracels, click here

[The map one gets by clicking]

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: Reuters “China begins new work on disputed South China Sea island”

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


Chinese scholar says ‘new evidence in Japan proves Beijing’s sovereignty over South China Sea islands’


Japan-based Chinese scholar claims that he has found new evidence collected in Japan which proves China’s sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, China’s state media reported.

Zhu Jianrong, a professor at Toyo Gakuen University, said that he had found several pieces of evidence – including a telegram and newspaper clippings from the 1920s to 1930s – which could prove that the Japanese government at the time acknowledged China’s sovereignty in the Spratly and Paracel Islands, Xinhua reported.

In a telegram found in the diplomatic archives of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 1933 Japan’s consulate general in Nanjing told Uchida Kosai, Japan’s then-foreign minister, that the nine islets occupied by France, between the Philippine Islands (the name of the Philippines before 1935) and Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), were under China’s sovereignty and under the jurisdiction of the Xisha islands – the Chinese name for the Paracel Islands, Xinhua quoted Zhu as saying.

In 1933, France invaded nine isles of the Nansha Islands, using the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands, Xinhua reported.

Newspapers at that time mistakenly reported that France had seized the Xisha Islands.

After Japan learnt that the islands France had seized at that time were part of the Nansha Islands, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper published an article on July 21, 1933, which cited a report sent by Harukazu Nagaoka, the then Japanese ambassador to France, to Japan’s foreign ministry.

In the report, Nagaoka said that there had always been Chinese people living on Zhongye Island (Thitu Island) in the Nansha Islands, while on one of the nine isles seized by France, there were also signs of Chinese people living there before.

Zhu also found some government archives, which showed that the Japanese government recognised that the Paracel Islands belonged to China, Xinhua reported.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:

Deep in Japanese archives ‘proof’ China owns islands

Source: SCMP “Chinese scholar says ‘new evidence in Japan proves Beijing’s sovereignty over South China Sea islands’”


China Deploys Ludun-2000 Short-range Air Defense System on Paracel


Ludun-2000 short-range air defence system deployed on Xisha Islands

Ludun-2000 short-range air defence system deployed on Xisha Islands


Ludun-2000 short-range air defence system deployed on Xisha Islands

Ludun-2000 short-range air defence system deployed on Xisha Islands

Recently CCTV shows footage of China’s deployment of Ludun-2000 short-range air defense system on Xisha (Paracel) Islands. The above photos of the system are taken from the footage.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Xisha Islands garrisons equipped with Ludun-2000 system” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


Photos of Launchs of YJ-62, HQ-9 Missile by Xisha (Paracel) Garrison


Launch of YJ-62 missile in military drill in South China Sea

Launch of YJ-62 missile in military drill in South China Sea

Launch of YJ-62 missile in military drill in South China Sea

Launch of YJ-62 missile in military drill in South China Sea

Launch of HQ-9 missile in military drill in South China Sea

Launch of HQ-9 missile in military drill in South China Sea

CCTV shows footage of the launches of YJ-62 anti-ship and HQ-9 air defence missiles by garrisons on Xisha (Paracel) and Nansha (Spratly) Islands in their military drills. The above photos are taken from the footage.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Disclosure of Launch of YJ-62 Missile by Xisha (Paracel) Garrison” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)