Advance of the 'Great Wall of Sand': New aerial photographs show incredible scale of construction on man-made islands in disputed area of South China
- Philippines voiced alarm about Chinese 'aggressiveness' in the South China Sea ahead of war games with the US
- President Benigno Aquino set to ask Southeast Asian leaders to issue collective denouncement of China's activities
- The aerial images show recent Chinese construction over seven reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago
- ‘Concern is that the installations will give the Chinese the ability to project force much better' - RUSI expert
Published: 06:09 GMT, 20 April 2015 | Updated: 13:21 GMT, 20 April 2015
The Philippine army has released new photographs of Chinese construction work in disputed waters in the South China Sea as it launched giant war games with the United States involving 11,500 personnel that were partly aimed at warning China.
The Philippines voiced alarm about Chinese 'aggressiveness' in the area as it launched the Balikatan 2015 joint Philippines and US military exercises.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino is set to ask Southeast Asian leaders to issue a collective statement denouncing the reclamation activities. He said recently that China's actions in the region could lead to military conflict.
The aerial images show intense recent Chinese construction over seven reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago of the flashpoint South China Sea.
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Philippines army photograph showing construction at Gaven Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on February 19
The Philippines voiced alarm about Chinese 'aggressiveness' in the area as it launched giant war games with the United States that were partly aimed at warning China. This photograph shows Chinese construction at Chigua (Kennan) Reef
Construction at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. This is one of a series of images released ahead of gigantic war games between the Philippines and the US involving 11,500 personnel
Previous satellite images revealed that China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use on the contested Fiery Cross Reef and may be planning another.
Images revealed Fiery Cross Reef virtually untouched by man-made structures in March 2014 but by March this year, it had been transformed into an artificial island.
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They followed equally disturbing photographs released earlier this month showing a flotilla of Chinese vessels dredging sand onto another artificially-built island on the nearby Mischief Reef.
The latest images were shown to the media by Philippine military chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang.
Construction at Chigua (Kennan) Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. The latest images were shown to the media by Philippine military chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang
Construction at Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. The Philippines has said that Chinese aggression in the region could lead to war
General Catapang, from the Philippine Army, said China's construction work was causing concern 'not only because it would deter freedom of navigation, but also due to its possibility of military purposes'
Philippines military chief General Gregorio Catapang Junior (left) shows the latest aerial photos of the expansive reclamation and building being done by China in at least seven disputed territories
Territory: The area near the Spratly Islands (pictured) where China is constructing artificial islands is claimed by many other countries in the region
Construction: Recent satellite images reveal that China has built a runway (pictured) in the South China Sea - which could be used for military operations
Disputed: China has built the airstrip (pictured) on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands without consulting the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan who all claim the region
'We have compelling reasons to raise our voice to tell the whole world the adverse effects of China's aggressiveness,' Catapang told reporters, describing the reclamation and construction activities as 'massive'.
Catapang said this was causing concern 'not only because it would deter freedom of navigation, but also due to its possibility of military purposes'.
Edward Schwarck, Research Fellow in Asia Studies at defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, said that the installations China is building could lead to military conflict.
He told MailOnline: ‘Assertive behaviour from China in this region is not a new thing. Chinese maritime law enforcement vessels have been harassing fishermen and US vessels for years.
‘The concern is that they give the Chinese military the ability to project force and sovereignty much better into the South China Sea. They could be used as launch pads for law enforcement vessels and harassing operations of other countries in the region.
‘These have been very provocative in the past and the installations mean more ships, that in turn escalates conflict.’
He added: ‘As they stand they’re not a threat. In a military conflict these sorts of installations would be sitting ducks. The concern is what it signifies about China’s long-term intentions.’
China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, disputed in parts with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and denies accusations its actions in its own territory are provocative.
General Catapang showed journalists surveillance photographs of construction work at Johnson, Fiery Cross, Cuarteron, Kennan and Gaven reefs.
He added: 'Our biggest problem now is the Mischief Reef. This is worrisome. This is our main concern now. This is the issue that we are now trying to address.
'We feel that we are in a very difficult situation. If they reclaim the Mischief Reef, we will be cut off. We have a series of islands going down south and going up north. It will challenge the Ayungin Shoal that we are claiming.
Military troops from the Philippines and United States hold up their respective national flags during opening rites of the Philippines-US Exercise Balikatan in Quezon City, east of Manila
Force: Following their release, U.S. President Barack Obama accused China of using its military might to reclaim the contested territory in the South China Sea
Worrying: A U.S. State Department spokesperson said the scale of China's land reclamation in the South China Sea (pictured) is fueling concerns in the region that China intends to militarise its outposts
Territory: China's Foreign Ministry spokesman said the country has 'indisputable rights' to the Spratly Islands (pictured) and it was 'protecting its nation's sovereignty'
Ownership: China claims the work is necessary to safeguard its sovereignty which it asserts over most of the South China sea
THE SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE OVER ARCHIPELAGO DISCOVERED BY BRITISH SAILOR CAPTAIN RICHARD SPRATLY
The dispute centres around hundreds of tiny shoals, reefs and islets in the South China Sea known as the Spratlys and the Paracels.
Several south Asian countries stake claim to the territory, though China tries to control the largest portion of the archipelago.
Beijing has claimed its right to the collection of land masses is 2,000 years old which, they say, includes the islands in Chinese history.
Taiwan supports its claim, and has its own airfield on the island of Taiping.
Vietnamese officials say their government has ruled over the land since the 17th century whilst the Philippines, the closest geographically, says the islands belong to them.
In 1974, Chinese forces seized the Paracels from Vietnam, killing 70 troops.
There were further clashes between the two countries in 1988, with 60 Vietnamese soldiers killed.
In 2012 China and the Philippines were embroiled in a lengthy maritime standoff over a Scarborough Shoal.
The Filipino military employed its largest warship for the dispute over the stretch of water which they call Panatag.
Upon boarding a Chinese military vessel for inspection, officials claimed they found live sharks, clams and illegal reef.
Later, Vietnamese border agencies refused to stamp passports asserting Chinese sovereignty over a handful of the islands and in January it was claimed China would be taken to a UN tribunal to challenge its stake.
There are soldiers there and if this happens, they are very near each other. I hope there will be no miscalculations or aggressiveness on both sides.'
'The president will raise... definitely the reclamation issue,' Foreign Ministry official Luis Cruz official told reporters. 'We would aim for a collective statement, this time on the issue of the reclamation of some features in the South China Sea.'
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak hosts the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, which begins on Friday.
In an interview with AFP last week, President Aquino said the world should fear China's actions in the disputed sea, warning they could lead to military conflict.
The United States' military commander for Asia has said China could eventually deploy radar and missile systems on the outposts it is building in the region, which would give it the power to enforce an exclusion zone.
China's ambassador to the United States has said it was 'natural' that his country's reclamation work would include military defence facilities.
Cui Tiankai said there 'should be no illusion that anyone could... repeatedly violate China's sovereignty without consequences'.
Its actions in the South China Sea have been described as 'aggressive' by Senator John McCain, chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.
He urged President Obama's administration to move more military resources into the economically important Asian region - and boost cooperation with Asian countries worried by China.
Japan's Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki said China had a duty to address regional concerns And his Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yong stressed the importance of stability in the South China Sea for trading nations like his.
China's leadership hit back at U.S. President Barack Obama who recently condemned the country for constructing the artificial island on Mischief Reef.
Obama claimed Beijing was 'using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions'.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3046619/Philippines-seeks-Southeast-Asian-unity-denouncing-China-reclamation.html#ixzz3XrI7yhWS
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