China adds four new missile shelters on South China Sea islands

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  June 30, 2017 at 11:38 AM
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June 30 (UPI) -- China has built four new missile shelters in disputed islands in the South China Sea – a sign Beijing has not given up its ambition to broaden its presence in international waters.

Satellite images from the Center for Strategic and International Studies taken in recent weeks show China has not only constructed four shelters for missiles at Fiery Cross Reef, its military has also expanded communications and radar capabilities.

In February, CSIS' Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative identified eight shelters with retractable roofs at Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs.

There are now a total of 12 Chinese missile facilities on artificial islands.

The CSIS report also pointed out "very large underground structures" that could house munitions, appeared to be under construction.

"Large buried facilities have previously been built on each of the islands for fuel and water storage," the report stated, quoting a previous study from the Pentagon.

Beijing can "now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers, to the Spratly Islands at any time," the report added.

Greg Poling, director of the CSIS initiative, said there also has not been "any slowdown in construction, including since the Mar-a-Lago summit" between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Now every time they put in a new radar or new missile shelter, it is harder for the world to get angry. They are building a gun, they are just not putting the bullets in yet," Poling said, according to the Financial Times.

Ely Ratner, a former adviser to Barack Obama, said unless China realizes there are "significant costs" to militarization, the country is unlikely to slow down buildup.

Xi told Obama in 2015 militarization would come to a halt.

China has not followed through with its stated commitments.

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