The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently said that developments at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, Zamora (Subi) Reef and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef – known as the “Big Three” – followed similar military deployments in the China-occupied portions of the disputed Paracel Islands.
BY-SA/Dmitry Terekhov
China to deploy fighter jets to South China Sea — think tank
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — In a matter of time, China will deploy fighter jets to its artificial islands in the South China Sea, which is expected to significantly expand Beijing’s capability to project power in its outposts, a private think tank has reported.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently said that developments at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, Zamora (Subi) Reef and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef – known as the “Big Three” – followed similar military deployments in the China-occupied portions of the disputed Paracel Islands.

From harbor dredging and runway improvements to hangar and radar construction, upgrades on Woody Island in the Paracels “served as a blueprint for things to come on China’s Spratly holdings to the south,” the AMTI said. 

The think tank said China deployed J-10 and J-11 fighter jets to Woody Island. In October last year, the Chinese military released images and video of J-11Bs on Woody for exercises.

The report said that like on Woody Island, Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles, military transport aircraft, surface-to-air missile systems and jamming equipment are on Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban Reefs.

“With similar platforms now seen on the Big Three, it is reasonable to look at other recent Woody Island deployments as signs of things to come at Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs,” the AMTI said.

“Considering that China has built identical hangars for combat aircraft on Woody and on each of the Big Three, it is likely that J-10s or J-11s will soon find their way south to the Spratly Islands,” it said.

“The current and expected deployments of air and missile platforms in the Paracels and Spratlys are steadily expanding Chinese power projection capabilities from its outposts,” the report said.

The AMTI said the Big Three host both air and naval bases and support an ever-growing People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) and fishing fleet presence across the southern portion of the West Philippine Sea.

Tracking surface ships in the West Philippine Sea, the AMTI monitored around 15 Chinese warships and coast guard vessels of various types anchored on its man-made islands on the three reefs.

The AMTI identified several PLAN and CCG vessels in the Spratlys, which include Type 053, Type 053H1, Type 053H1G and Type 053H3 frigates.

AFP doing its best

Meanwhile, Armed Forces chief Gen. Carlito Galvez yesterday assured Filipinos that the military is doing its best to secure and protect the country’s maritime territory and territorial integrity.

Galvez issued this statement in the wake of China’s sustained militarization in the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the Spratlys.

“We still maintain the nine islands and also in the western portion, we are protecting seven islands along the Sulu and Celebes seas,” Galvez said.

He was referring to the AFP’s nine military outposts in the Kalayaan currently being guarded by the Marines.

These military outposts include the islets Pag-asa, Likas, Parola, Lawak, Kota, Patag and Panatag as well as Ayungin Shoal and Rizal Reef.

Under direct threat from China’s militarization in the Kalayaan Group of Islands are Pag-asa Island and Ayungin Shoal.

Kalayaan town on Pag-asa, a fifth class municipality of Palawan, is located just 12 nautical miles from China’s man-made island on Zamora Reef.

Ayungin Shoal is 23 nautical miles from the Chinese military base at Panganiban Reef, which is only 129 nautical miles from mainland Palawan.

As reported by the think tank, China has been assembling around 15 warships and coast guard vessels in the disputed region since last year.

“For now we are coordinating with our counterparts and we are still validating the report,” Galvez said.

He declined to discuss the issue, saying any official statement on the West Philippine Sea is no longer within the domain of the military but of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

On the northern frontier, Galvez said the AFP has deployed a battalion of Marines to help secure and protect the country’s territory.  – With Jaime Laude

Related video:

ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE SOUTH CHINA SEA
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