UPDATED: China’s Big Three Near Completion

Center for Strategic and International Studies — June 29, 2017

New imagery shows that while China is keeping attention focused on its negotiations with Southeast Asian countries over basic principles to manage the South China Sea disputes, its construction of military and dual-use facilities on the Spratly Islands continues. New missile shelters, radar/communications facilities, and other infrastructure are going in on Fiery Cross, Mischief, and Subi Reefs, suggesting that while the region is engaged in peaceful discussion, China remains committed to developing its power projection capabilities.

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Fiery Cross Reef continues to be the most advanced of China’s bases. In February, AMTI identified eight hardened shelters with retractable roofs at each of the Big Three, which Reuters had earlier reported would house missile launchers. China has now built four additional shelters at Fiery Cross—a development not yet seen at Subi or Mischief.

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China is also busy expanding its already substantial communications and radar capabilities on the artificial islands. A very large antennae array is being installed on a small outpost at the southern side of Mischief Reef, presumably boosting China’s ability to monitor activity around the feature. That ability should be of particular concern to Manila, given Mischief’s proximity to Palawan, Reed Bank, and Second Thomas Shoal.

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