Airstrip Mystery on Spratly Islands

PAUL CHONG / SATURDAY, 29 NOVEMBER 2014

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The Spratly Islands (Chinese name: Nansha islands), Vietnamese Name: Quần đảo Trường Sa, Filipino Name: Kapuluan ng Kalayaan) are a disputed group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea.[6] The archipelago lies off the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia (Sabah), and southern Vietnam. Named after the 19th-century British explorer Richard Spratly who sighted them in 1843, the islands contain approximately 4 km2 (1.5 mi2) of actual land area spread over a vast area of more than 425,000 km2 (164,000 mi2).

The Spratlys are one of three archipelagos in the South China Sea which comprise more than 30,000 islands and reefs, and which complicate governance and economics in this part of Southeast Asia. Such small and remote islands have little economic value in themselves, but are important in establishing international boundaries. No native islanders inhabit the islands which offer rich fishing grounds and may contain significant oil and natural gas reserves.

The Spratlys are one of three archipelagos in the South China Sea which comprise more than 30,000 islands and reefs, and which complicate governance and economics in this part of Southeast Asia. Such small and remote islands have little economic value in themselves, but are important in establishing international boundaries. No native islanders inhabit the islands which offer rich fishing grounds and may contain significant oil and natural gas reserves.

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Satellite imagery indicates China is building an island islandthat could be the site for its first airstrip in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, defence specialists IHS Jane’s reports., a few days ago.

The images of the reclaimed island on Fiery Crtoss Reef, taken on August 8 and November 14 (2014) show that over the last three months, Chinese dredgers have created a land mass 3Km long & 200m to 300m wide, large enough for a runway & apron.

As well as the land mass, which is almost the entire length of the reef, the dredgers are creating a harbour that could be large enough to receive tankers & major surface ships, it added.

The Spratly Islands, reefs midway between Vietnam & Philipines, are claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, The Philipines, China, Taiwan & Vietnam.The only habitable part of the reef is a concrete platform built & maintained by China’s military.

IHS Jane’s said the reclamation at the reef was the fourth such project China has undertaken in the islands in the past 18 months. No other can house an airstrip in its current form, IHS Jane’s said. (Source: The West Australian 27 November 2014).

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