Get Ready For China’s Warplanes On Artificial Islands In South China Sea

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Mar 28 2017
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Everything is in order and goes according to plan. Beijing has decided on a grand plan to defend itself as its economy grows. The Middle Kingdom still feels the humiliation after two invasions by the Japanese and multiple invasions by the West in the past. China does not plan to be called “Sick Man of Asia” again. And the grand plan was to militarize South China Sea.


Of course, Beijing consistently says they are not militarizing the South China Sea because to say otherwise could be spun as an aggressive military act to invade neighbouring countries around the region. That would grant a licence to self-proclaimed “Global Sheriff” – United States – to act militarily against China’s artificial islands.

South China Sea - China Nine Dash Line Territorial Disputes - Asian Claims - Map

Avoiding the word militarization, at first, China said the facilities on Chinese islands and reefs were primarily for civilian purposes. Now, China says they need military equipment on reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea to defend its trade interests in the region. United States who isn’t happy with China’s build-up has been sending its naval forces to the region every now and then.


While China calls United State’s blockade in the South China Sea an “act of war”, the U.S. calls it an “act of peace”. What the China calls a “challenge to its sovereignty and security”, the American calls it “freedom of navigation”. Perhaps the U.S. has forgotten that they were part of Eight-Nation Alliance who invaded China in 1900.

China Bully - Great Wall Around South China Sea

And since the U.S. likes to use “freedom of navigation” as justification to send its mighty naval forces to the South China Sea to intimidate, warn and show off its military prowess, Beijing is now saying the defence equipment on islands in the disputed waters had been placed there to maintain “freedom of navigation” too.


In another latest warning to the world, a U.S. military think tank – Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) – claims China appears to have largely completed major construction of military infrastructure on artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea and can now deploy combat planes and other military hardware there at any time.

South China Sea - Mischief Reef Satellite Photo March 2017

South China Sea - Subi Reef Satellite Photo March 2017

Armed with satellite images, its director, Greg Poling, showed new radar antennas on Fiery Cross and Subi. AMTI also said the work on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly Islands included naval, air, radar and defensive facilities. So far, neighbouring countries competing claims in the sea have been largely quiet about the Chinese activities.


AMTI said China’s three air bases in the Spratlys and another on Woody Island in the Paracel chain further north would allow its military aircraft to operate over nearly the entire South China Sea, assisted by advanced surveillance and early-warning radar facilities at Fiery Cross, Subi and Cuarteron Reefs, as well as Woody Island.

China HQ-9 SAM Surface to Air Missile System

China is believed to have installed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles at Woody Island more than a year ago and had deployed anti-ship cruise missiles there on at least one occasion. Last month, U.S. officials revealed that China had finished building almost two dozen structures on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross that appeared designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles.


The Chinese had also constructed hardened shelters with retractable roofs for mobile missile launchers at Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief and enough hangars at Fiery Cross for 24 combat aircraft and three larger planes, including bombers. But even if there’s a plan to strengthen the islands with warplanes, this isn’t a public secret.

South China Sea - Fiery Cross Reef Satellite Photo March 2017

South China Sea - Fiery Cross Reef Satellite Photo March 2017 - SAM

Early last year, while then-Secretary of State John Kerry was hosting Foreign Minister Wang Yi in an attempt to persuade China to end its militarization of the contested islands, the Chinese deployed some fighter jets – Chinese Shenyang J-11s (“Flanker”) and Xian JH-7s (“Flounder”) – to Woody Island instead. Obviously, China wasn’t interested to be lectured by the U.S.


In November 2015, before the deliberate act of sending some fighter jets to Woody Island to embarrass John Kerry, Beijing published images showing J-11 fighter jets on the same island. The Chinese had also sent three commercial airliners to test the runway on Fiery Cross Reef, of which the construction was completed in 2015.

South China Sea Dispute - An Airport Built by China on Fiery Cross Reef

Woody Island is the largest island in the Paracel chain of islands in the South China Sea, and has had a runway since the early 1990s. It lies 250 miles southeast of a major Chinese submarine base on Hainan Island. China has claimed Woody Island since the 1950s, but it is contested by Taiwan and Vietnam.


Like it or not, China is going ahead to militarize all the strategic islands in South China Sea to protect its interest, the same way the U.S. has militarized its bases around the globe as the world’s sheriff. The more and louder Washington tells Beijing not to do it, the more and faster China will equip its islands with military gadgets and hardware.

China Fighter Jets in Formation


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