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China’s New HF Radar On Disputed Island Will Establish Effective Control Of South China Sea: CSIS

As tensions in the South China Sea continue to boil to all-time highs, a new report says that China may be building a high-frequency radar facility on one of the islands in the disputed waters, which poses a bigger threat to the balance of power in one of the world’s busiest waterways than previously detected surface-to-air missile equipment.

New radar facilities being developed at Cuarteron Reef in the Spratly Islands will  bolster China’s ability to monitor surface and air traffic and could significantly change the operational landscape in the South China Sea, according to a report from CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

For China, such radar facilities, in  addition to runways and air defense capabilities on the island would establish effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the oil-rich South China Sea, the report said.

Construction of radar installations at Cuarteron Reef, the southernmost of China’s occupied features in the South China Sea, are particularly important, and appear to be nearly complete, according to the report.

Developments at Cuarteron Reef, the southernmost of China’s occupied features in the South China Sea, are particularly important. Construction of facilities at Cuarteron seems nearly complete and the artificial island now covers about 52 acres (211,500 square meters). Two probable radar towers have been built on the northern portion of the feature, and a number of 65-foot (20-meter) poles have been erected across a large section of the southern portion. These poles could be a high-frequency radar installation, which would significantly bolster China’s ability to monitor surface and air traffic across the southern portion of the South China Sea.

Last week U.S satellite images surfaced that appear to show two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers and a radar system on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands, which has ignited concerns over China’s militarization.

The report says that the deployment of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, while notable, doesn’t alter the military balance in the South China Sea, however, the new radar facilities being constructed will be a game changer by altering the operational landscape and will help China establish effective control of air and sea in the disputed waters.

This month’s deployment of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the Paracels, while notable, does not alter the military balance in the South China Sea. New radar facilities being developed in the Spratlys, on the other hand, could significantly change the operational landscape in the South China Sea. And when along with the development of new runways and air defense capabilities, they speak to a long-term anti-access strategy by China—one that would see it establish effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the South China Sea.

Last month a U.S. Navy ship USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, came within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the disputed Paracel Islands, which thus angered China and sent tensions to an all-time high.

In response to the incident, The Pentagon said the warship was exercising the right to freedom of navigation in open seas.

Chinese state media said last week in an op-ed piece that its military forces should fire warning shots and deliberately ram U.S. warships that sail too close to their islands in the disputed South China Sea.

In the article, posted on the social media account of the People’s Daily, state media declared that China must “teach the U.S. a lesson” should they continue intruding on China’s rightful territory, the South China Morning Post reported.

China has been embroiled in fierce territorial disputes in the region ever since they claimed a vast swathe of land known as the ‘nine-dash line.’

Tensions in the South China Sea have been on the rise since Beijing began a massive ‘land reclamation’ project to expand and construct facilities on small islands in the disputed areas of the region.

Here are some satellite images of the military buildup on the disputed islands in the South China Sea (images are courtesy of CSIS):

China’s artificial island on Cuarteron Reef, as of January 24, 2016.

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Image courtesy of CSIS

The southern section of China’s outpost on Cuarteron Reef, as of January 24, 2016.

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The northern section of China’s outpost on Cuarteron Reef, as of January 24, 2016.

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Image courtesy of CSIS

China’s artificial island on Gaven Reef, as of February 12, 2016.

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Image courtesy of CSIS

The northern section of China’s outpost on Gaven Reef, as of February 12, 2016.

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Image courtesy of CSIS

China’s artificial island on Hughes Reef, as of February 7, 2016.

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Image courtesy of CSIS

The eastern section of China’s outpost on Hughes Reef, as of February 7, 2016.

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Image courtesy of CSIS

China’s artificial island on Johnson South Reef, as of February 9, 2016.

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Image courtesy of CSIS

The northern portion of China’s outpost on Johnson South Reef, as of February 9, 2016.

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Image courtesy of CSIS

 

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2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. China Deploys Fighter Jets To Disputed Island In South China Sea, Fox News Says | EMerging Equity
  2. South China Sea Tensions Set To Rise As China Adapts New ‘Deep Sea Exploration Law’ | EMerging Equity

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