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U.S. Think Tank Claims New Military Facilities On South China Sea Islands Built By China

U.S. Think Tank Claims New Military Facilities On South China Sea Islands Built By China
In a move that is believed could result in raising of tensions with Washington, which has accused Beijing of militarizing the vital waterway, a U.S. think tank has very recently reported that China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea.
Missile shelters and radar and communications facilities are being built on the Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs in the Spratly Islands, shows new satellite images, claimed the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The United States is concerned that military facilities on the artificial islands could be used to restrict free movement through the South China Sea, an important trade route and the U.S. has on earlier many occasions criticized China's build-up of military facilities there.
In what was first such challenge to Beijing's claim to most of the waterway since U.S. President Donald Trump took office and in a so-called freedom of navigation operation, a U.S. Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef last month.
The South China Sea is also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam and China has always denied the U.S. charges that it is militarizing the sea.
Tension between Washington and Beijing over military installations in the South China Sea could complicate the efforts by Trump to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and the U.S. President has sought China's help in achieving that
AMTI said that to go with the eight already on the artificial island, China has built four new missile shelters on Fiery Cross Reef. The think tank had said in a previous report that Mischief and Subi each have eight shelters.
With the intention to house long-range surface-to-air missiles on the three islands, China had nearly finished building structures there, Reuters had reported in February.
The think tank said that the installation should be of concern to the Philippines due to its proximity to an area claimed by Manila, referring to a very large antennae array is being installed that presumably boosts Beijing's ability to monitor the surroundings, on Mischief Reef.
AMTI said that indicating a sizeable communications or radar system, a large dome recently was installed on Fiery Cross and another is under construction.
It said that two more domes are being built at Mischief Reef.
AMTI said that "indicating that it could be connected to radars for any missile systems that might be housed there," a smaller dome has been installed near the missile shelters on Mischief.
"Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time," it said.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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