China reclaims reef

NEWLY published satellite images show that China is quickly reclaiming land around a submerged reef within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, with several dredgers in operation and seawalls built.

The work on Mischief Reef is China’s most recent reclamation in the disputed Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea. Reclamation is well advanced on six other reefs in the Spratlys, Reuters reported in February, activities that have alarmed other claimants and drawn criticism from Washington.

A March 16 image published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) shows what it said were a chain of small artificial land formations as well as new structures, fortified seawalls and construction equipment along Mischief Reef.

Several dredgers are also present while the entrance to the reef had been expanded, the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said on its website.

An image from February 1 showed a Chinese amphibious transport naval vessel about several hundred meters from the reef’s entrance. CSIS said such a ship was capable of holding up to 800 troops and as many as 20 amphibious armored vehicles.

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