CHINA has vastly extended its military scope by constructing military jet hangars on a set of contested islands, damning new images reveal.
Their confirmed presence in the South China Sea quashes China’s repeated claims it was never planning to militarise the region.
The photographs show development undertaken on the Spratly Islands, a strategically vital area where China has built its own artificial islands on reefs.
Most believe it is a move designed to project military power across the region and undermine U.S. dominance.
According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, reinforced aircraft hangars are now visible on three of these reefs.
Each of these hangars will have enough room to accommodate 24 fighter jets as well as larger planes, such as bomb carriers, transports and refuelers.
The construction has occurred on Subi Reef, Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef – all part of the disputed territories.
The transparency initiative’s director, George B. Poling, told The New York Times the structures were large enough to accommodate China’s fleet.
To use them to house civilian planes would be akin to building a mansion and only living in the first floor, he said.
“They are far thicker than you would build for any civilian purpose. They’re reinforced to take a strike.”
The images are also released just days after China sent bombers and fighter jets on combat patrols in the area.
Raising tensions with its neighbours and the U.S. even higher, China claimed the exercise was designed to normalise such drills.
The Hague ruled last month that China did not have historic rights to the region. Its leaders, however, simply ignored the directive.
SOURCE: COREY CHARLTON