China has been slowly but steadily building its influence in the South China Sea, militarizing its multiple ‘man made islands’ in the process. Military-length runways, surface-to-air missile systems, and associated radar installations have become commonplace.
Now it seems China is looking to turbo-charge is island making efforts, announcing the development of a “massive island maker” vessel in the region.
The ship, capable of building artificial islands of the sort the country has constructed in the contested South China Sea, was launched Friday at a port in eastern Jiangsu province, according to the state-owned China Daily. The boat named Tian Kun Hao is capable of digging 6,000 cubic meters an hour, the equivalent of three standard swimming pools, reported AFP.
The ship is a larger version of a similar vessel China used to build its current slate of enhanced archipelagos that are now supporting military installations. It will be the largest ship of its kind in Asia.
The U.S. Navy has made clear America’s determination to maintain freedom of navigation in the region, with frequent patrols by United States warships. The U.S. has also flown military aircraft near the new Chinese military outposts.