China building large port in disputed South China Sea islands

Satellite images from March indicate Beijing is expanding its presence on the Paracel Islands.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  March 15, 2017 at 5:59 AM
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March 15 (UPI) -- China may be building a large port in the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency.

The new construction could be taking place as China continues to militarize other areas of the South China Sea, including the disputed Spratly Islands, where Beijing has built military runways and possibly missile shelters.

China confirmed in 2016 it stationed troops on the Paracels, a group of islands also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

Beijing currently administers the islands, and according to satellite images from private firm Planet Labs taken March 6, China may have begun the construction of harbors on North Island, north of Woody Island.

China recently expanded a runway on Woody Island and may have deployed surface-to-air missiles to assert its military presence in the area.

Countries including the United States have condemned China's militarization of the South China Sea.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who once said Chinese activities in international waters must be blocked, is to visit China on March 18-19.

Tillerson may raise the issue of militarization in disputed areas and issue a warning to Beijing.

But China has remained consistent about building its presence in the maritime region, with expansion indicating a "steady pattern of Chinese militarization," according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

China has broken its pledge to halt land reclamation and has already built a 1.9-mile airstrip on Woody Island.

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