China said to be building airstrip in disputed territory

16 April 2015 (Last Updated April 16th, 2015 18:30)

China is believed to be building an airstrip on a disputed territory in the South China Sea.

China is believed to be building an airstrip on a disputed territory in the South China Sea.

According to a BBC report, the images published by the IHS Jane's Defence Weekly show a construction in progress on the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.

The images published in IHS Jane have been provided by Airbus Defence and Space in February and March.

China's land reclamation work in the area has been a matter of concern around the Asia-Pacific region. As almost the entire South China Sea is claimed by the country, there have been overlapping claims with several other Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.

China has been accused of reclaiming land contested areas to build artificial islands for military purposes.

One of the images dated 23 March showed a paved section of runway on the north-eastern side of Fiery Cross Reef along with paving and ground preparation of other sections.

The report further stated that the disputed land is capable of accommodating a 3,000m long runway.

BBC further quoted the report as saying that the 3,000m length, "would be well within the parameters of existing People's Liberation Army Air Force runways on mainland China, which vary in length from about 2,700m to 4,000m at most."

It also showed dredging to the south of the reef, which are apparently being carried out to improve the reef's port facilities.

China, however, has said that the work being carried out is legal and necessary to safeguard its sovereignty.

The BBC said that a commentary carried by Xinhua news agency said: "China's work on the (Spratly) islands mostly serves civil purposes apart from meeting the needs of military defence. China is aiming to provide shelter, aid in navigation, weather forecasts and fishery assistance to ships of various countries passing through the sea."

A few other images used in the report also show that China could possibly be building a second air strip on Subi Reef which is also a part of the Spratlys and about 25km away from an island populated by Filipino civilians by creating and linking three artificial islands.

Last year, the Philippines had said that it believed China was building an airstrip in Johnson South Reef, in the Spratlys.