- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2015

New satellite images released Thursday reveal that China has completed construction of its first airstrip in the hotly contested Spratly Island chain in the South China Sea.

The photos published by IHS Janes, a private defense intelligence provider, indicate that the airstrip is now complete due to the presence of runway heading marking and helipad designators.

The airstrip, located on Fiery Cross Reef, is more than 3,000 meters long.

China is also constructing airstrips on Mischief Reed and Subi Reef, The Washington Post reported.

The completion of the new airstrip means China will soon be able to bring in more supplies and start air patrols over the disputed island chain, according to IHS Janes.

China has been building up the islands, once small strips of sand barely above sea level, and using maritime law to claim the waters surrounding them as their own. The build-up has inflamed tensions with other southeast Asian countries concerned over China’s land grabs in an important maritime trade area.

The airstrips are particularly concerning to the Philippines, as it has also claimed various islands in the Spratly chain as its own.

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