Report: China to fortify South China Sea island with 'logistics base'

By Elizabeth Shim
Report: China to fortify South China Sea island with 'logistics base'
Under Chinese President Xi Jinping Beijing has expanded its facilities in disputed South China Sea islands. EPA-EFE/WU HONG

SEOUL, March 19 (UPI) -- China is adding more facilities to Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

The construction of a "strategic service and logistics base" on Woody Island, composed of two islets, will be undertaken by Sansha city on China's Hainan Island, the South China Morning Post reported.


Sansha was established in 2012. President Xi Jinping had said in 2018 he wants to establish an international free-trade zone on Hainan, which would require a "special free-trade zone port."

China has expressed support for globalization and continues to encourage countries to join its Belt and Road Initiative, but its island-building activities in the South China Sea have angered neighbors and invited condemnation from the United States.

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Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised concerns about China's "illegal island-building in international waterways" and "coercive" measures to block energy development.

China's plans for Woody Island are a "response" to U.S. challenges on the issue of the South China Sea, said Shi Yinhong of Renmin University of China.

"If this is going to be on a large scale and carried out quickly -- which I doubt -- then the strategic response from the U.S. will be somewhat dramatic, and the rivalry between Beijing and Washington will escalate," he said.

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China's top priority is to end the trade war with the United States, Shi added.

Disputes have not been resolved.

The Trump administration has taken steps to limit the ability of Huawei Technologies to operate within the United States, Voice of America reported.

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Washington is waging a wide-ranging campaign to stop Huawei from expanding in the U.S. market, claiming the firm could collect intelligence for the Chinese government, according to the report.

Michael Murphree, assistant professor of International Business at the University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business, said the United States is directing a "very strong effort" against Huawei.

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