A Chinese specialist on the South China Sea claims that the People’s Republic of China will do more dredging to expand on a number of the man-made artificial islands it has built in the Spratly archipelago and reiterates that the development is planed for civilian purposes.
“Most of the construction on islands in the South China Sea were completed in 2015 and the pace then slowed. Civilian facility construction is the major focus of the South China Sea islands building and the portion of defense deployment is relatively small,” Chen Xiangmiao, a research personnel at the National Institute for the South China Sea, said in a report published on Monday, February 5, in the Global Times.
Chen’s statements came on the same day we reported a new aerial photographs showing China was nearly done building air and naval bases on the artificial islands it had built on seven reefs of Spratly archipelago claimed by the Philippine government.
The images showed buildings, communication and transmission towers, radar domes, lighthouses and observatory towers on the artificial islands.
The United States think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti) is assured that China is militarizing the islands to control the entire South China Sea.
“The days of arguing whether or not the Chinese are building civilian or military bases are long behind us,” Amti director Gregory Poling said in an interview earlier.
“You do not build 72 fighter jet hangars for search and rescue or for fishing shelters. You build them because you want an air base,” he added.
“Now maybe there are civilian structures or two but first and foremost these are military facilities,” Poling said. China is not done yet with the reclamation in the Spratly archipelago, per Chen comment.
“The sizes of some islands in the South China Sea will be further enlarge in the future through more dredging in the said region,” he said.
Moreover, Chen noted that there was “domestic pressure” on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to take a “tough stance” on China’s artificial island-building in the South China Sea region, most particularly on Spratly.