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South China Sea: BOMBSHELL images show alarming scale of Beijing’s secret military buildup

New satellite photos show the deployment of more early warning and anti-submarine aircraft to airbases bordering the sea in Hainan province over the past year. At least five additional KJ-500 early warning aircraft have been spotted at Lingshui airbase in satellite images obtained from Planet Labs and dating from December 3rd 2020. Seven anti-submarine KQ-200 planes were also photographed at Qionghai aerodrome in July of last year.

Besides the new aircraft deployments, the Chinese military appears to be pushing ahead with the construction of a dry dock at its Yulin naval complex east of Sanya.

The dimensions of the new dock would suggest that it will be capable of housing China’s aircraft carriers as well as destroyer and cruiser fleets.

The naval base is already home to the Chinese navy’s conventional and nuclear powered submarines.

All these measures significantly increase Beijing’s ability to assert its sovereignty over the South China Sea.

The waterway is a major shipping route for global commerce and is rich in fish and potential energy resources.

Experts believe that the seabed may contain up to 11 billion barrels worth of oil along with 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Resource hungry China has aggressively sought to assert its claim over these hydrocarbon deposits.

The People’s Republic says that the entire waterway up to the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan belongs to it, a claim rejected by an international court of arbitration in 2016.

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This has led to escalating tensions in the region, which are threatening to boil over into armed conflict.

During Donald Trump’s presidency, the US increased the number of “freedom of navigation operations”—known as FONOPs—in the area to challenge China’s sovereignty claims.

President Joe Biden is expected to continue following this policy of contesting China’s power in the region.

Mr Biden’s nomination for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, last year told the China Talk podcast: “We should be devoting more assets and resources to ensuring and reinforcing, and holding up alongside our partners, the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.”

He added: “That puts the shoe on the other foot. China then has to stop us, which they will not do.”

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