HANOI – Vietnam has begun dredging work on a disputed reef in the South China Sea, Reuters news service reported Thursday, a move that will likely anger China, which claims virtually the entire sea.
A commercial satellite image taken on Nov. 30 shows activity on Vietnam-controlled Ladd Reef on the southwestern fringe of the Spratly group of islands, according to the report.
Several vessels can be seen in a newly dug channel between the lagoon and open sea, it said, quoting analysts as saying that similar dredging work has been the precursor to more extensive construction on other reefs.
Vietnam has already constructed a lighthouse on the reef as well as a facility that houses a small contingent of soldiers. Besides China, Taiwan also claims the reef.
An analyst was quoted as saying that the activity on Ladd Reef may play a role in Vietnam’s defense of Spratly Island, where it recently upgraded a runway in apparent response to China’s building of military facilities on artificial islands in the region.