- - Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Images taken by the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) earlier this month provide evidence that the fortification of the South China Sea islands claimed by the Chinese government as sovereign Chinese territory is nearing completion. The photos show large aircraft hangars, missile batteries, and radar facilities nearing completion. The three main islands which show this militarization are Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs, all of the Spratly Islands chain.

The hangars built can protect up to 24 fighter jets, bomber or reconnaissance aircraft. “I mean, you don’t build facilities like that and then not use them,” Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Yusof Ishak Institute, told CNN.

“Whether we decide to deploy or not deploy relevant military equipment, it is within our scope of sovereignty. It’s our right to self-defense and self-preservation as recognized by international law,” said Hua Chunying from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“China’s three military bases in the Spratlys and another on Woody Island in the Paracels will allow Chinese military aircraft to operate over nearly the entire South China Sea,” AMTI said in a statement.

The United States and its allies in the region fear that China will eventually declare an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, in the area, preventing adversarial military forces from entering the region. The U.S. in particular has said it will not allow this to happen, that the area is in international waters, and the U.S. Navy will continue freedom of navigation transit and flights through the area.

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