amti.csis – On June 16, 2015, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang announced that “as planned, the land reclamation project of China’s construction on some stationed islands and reefs of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands will be completed in the upcoming days.” He went on to note that after land reclamation on existing features was complete, China would continue to construct facilities on its new islands. As of June 17, AMTI assesses that two of China’s land reclamation projects are fully complete, three are nearly complete, and two are ongoing, with active land reclamation still taking place. The map below shows the current status of China’s Spratly building projects.
The pictures below, taken between early and mid-June, show ongoing work at Mischief and Subi Reef, with dredging activity still underway. Read on for more information about activity at these reefs. China’s announcement comes as Washington and Beijing prepare to meet for the seventh annual Strategic and Economic Dialogues (S&ED) on June 22-24. This timing, coupled with the fact that five of China’s seven projects were nearly finished, leads CSIS scholars to argue that China’s statement represents a change in message, but not a change in policy.
Mischief Reef. June 10, 2015.
As of June 10, 2015, extensive dredging was still underway at Mischief Reef, as the pictures display. The northern, western, and southern landmasses constructed in the early Spring of 2015 have been connected and continue to expand and be reinforced with seawalls now ringing the reclaimed reef. In the middle of the feature, dozens of dredgers and support craft transit the inner harbor.
Mischief Reef. June 10, 2015.
Reclamation is most active along the northeastern rim of the reef, newly reclaimed since AMTI last released photos of Mischief Reef in March. New structures and construction equipment are visible along the northern bank of the reef. At the southern facility, a seawall is being constructed. AMTI assesses that5,420,000 square meters of land have been reclaimed at Mischief Reef as of June 10, 2015.
Subi Reef. June 5, 2015.
Subi reef has changed dramatically in the last few months. The southern, western, and northern edges of the reef have been reclaimed and an access channel to the inner harbor has been cut out. Most of the reclaimed reef’s infrastructure has been built out on the southwestern landmass. Like Mischief reef, the inner harbor is transited by dozens of support craft with active dredgers operating to the north and south of the reef. A naval vessel is visible to the west of the reef. To the east one dredger can be seen expanding the entrance to the reef. Construction is ongoing with two cement plants being built along the western bank and seawalls now extending across the length of the reclaimed land. AMTI assesses that 3,950,000 square meters of land have been reclaimed at Subi Reef as of June 10, 2015.
Subi Reef. June 5, 2015.
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U.S. Board of Geographic Names: Cuarteron Reef
Chinese: Huayang Jiao (华阳礁)
Philippine: Calderon Reef
Vietnamese: Bãi Châu Viên
The artificial island at Cuarteron Reef saw most of its construction and dredging during the summer of 2014. Construction of buildings and facilities continues today.
U.S. Board of Geographic Names: Fiery Cross Reef
Chinese: Yongshu Reef (永暑礁)
Philippine: Kagitingan Reef
Vietnamese: Đá Chữ Thập
Reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef began in August of 2014. Principal landmass construction was finished by November. Since January of 2015, construction has begun on an airstrip estimated at 3,110 meters in length. Work has also proceeded on a port facility.
U.S. Board of Geographic Names: Gaven Reefs
Chinese: Nanxun Jiao (南薰礁)
Philippine: Burgos Reefs
Vietnamese: Đá Ga Ven
Construction at Gaven Reef began sometime after March 30, 2014. The island that has been reclaimed since then measures approximately 300 by 250 meters with causeways extending from a central island.
U.S. Board of Geographic Names: Hughes Reef
Chinese: Dongmen (东门礁)
Philippine: Đá Tư Nghĩa
Construction on Hughes Reef began in summer 2014. What was once a 380 square meter concrete platform on stilts has been expanded to a 75,000 square meter island through dredging and reclamation activity.
U.S. Board of Geographic Names: Johnson Reef
Chinese: Chigua Jiao (赤瓜礁)
Philippine: Mabini Reef
Vietnamese: Đá Gạc Ma
Though reclamation began far earlier, significant progress on building construction was made at Johnson South Reef in late 2014.
U.S. Board of Geographic Names: Mischief Reef
Chinese: Meiji Jiao (美济礁)
Tagalog: Panganiban reef
Vietnamese: Đá Vành Khăn
Beginning in early 2015, Mischief Reef has undergone extensive reclamation activity along the western rim of the reef. Recent widening of the southern entrance to the reef, coupled with sightings of PLAN naval vessels around the reef, may suggest a future role for the reclaimed reef as a naval base.
U.S. Board of Geographic Names: Subi Reef
Chinese: Zhubi Dao (渚碧礁)
Vietnamese: Đá Xu Bi
Subi Reef is the most recent feature to undergo significant reclamation efforts by China. Originally occupied in 1988, since July of 2014 it has seen significant expansion of the landmass with some analysis suggesting it might have the footprint to support a second airstrip, much like Fiery Cross Reef.
U.S. Board of Geographic Names: Sand Cay
Chinese: Dungian Shazhou (敦谦沙洲), Beixiao Dao (北小岛)
Philippine: Bailan Island
Vietnamese: Đảo Sơn Ca
Sand Cay was occupied by Vietnam in 1975 and has undergone sporadic occupation and development ever since. Between 2011 and 2015, Vietnam has expanded the island at Sand Cay by more than 50%, adding extensive defensive structures and facilities and improving existing western facilities.
U.S. Board of Geographic Names: West Reef
Chinese: Xi Jiao (西礁)
Philippine: Kanlurang Quezon
Vietnamese: Đá Tây
Vietnam is believed to have controlled West Reef without interruption since 1975. Vietnam built a lighthouse on the reef in May or June of 1994 and built various military structures throughout the feature in the years that followed. Beginning in August 2012, the reef has been the site of extensive land reclamation and construction with additional facilities and a harbor being built.