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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

China develops another ‘island’ in South China Sea

(26 November 2014)

Satellite images of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea show that China has reclaimed land at nearly two miles long and over an eighth of a mile wide. Security and defence analysts at IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that Fiery Cross Reef had previously been completely underwater aside from a concrete platform built by the Chinese Navy. Satellite images on 8 August and 14 November, however, show that dredgers had piled material across the length of the reef large enough for an airstrip.

The Spratly Islands are located in a disputed area of the South China Sea. China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam have disputed claims to islands and maritime territory in the area. At stake are fisheries and potential undersea oil and gas resources.

The US has called for a freeze on similar activities in the disputed areas while a dispute resolution code of conduct is being negotiated. China has rejected calls to halt activities, and Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying argued that China has "indisputable sovereignty" over the islands in the South China Sea.

IHS Jane’s noted that the Fiery Cross Reef represents the fourth land reclamation project by China in the Spratly Islands in the past 18 months. Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan have also built airfields on reefs and islands in the disputed territory.

Fiery Cross Reef is one of the insular features in the South China Sea that the Philippines has asked an arbitral tribunal to declare to be a ‘rock’ under Article 121(3) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and therefore capable of generating a territorial sea but no continental shelf or economic life of its own. China has so far declined to participate in the arbitral and the tribunal has yet to determine whether it has jurisdiction to rule on the issues raised by the Philippines.

Sources:

China building island in South China Sea big enough for military installations, 21 November 2014, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/21/china-building-south-china-sea-island-airstrip-military-installations

Report: China building 'airstrip capable' island in disputed waters, 25 November 2014, by Katie Hunt, CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/24/world/asia/china-south-china-sea/