(RFA) “The reported presence of the PLANAF at Fiery Cross Reef is the latest sign of China’s efforts to assert control over the South China Sea from the bases it finished building atop reefs and rocks in 2016. It comes amid a slew of Chinese actions at sea and administrative measures that appear intended to reinforce Beijing’s sweeping maritime claims.”
Beijing has created a new “provincial administrative district” that covers all of the Spratley Island chain that it calls “Nansha”. This signals that the Spratley Islands and the South China Sea is officially “part of Red China.”
China has placed aircraft on its artificial islands and bases in the South China Sea before, after the first H-6K bomber landed on Woody Island in 2018, which lies further north, in the Paracel Islands. However, those deployments came from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). This new deployment belongs to the PLANAF, the fast-growing aviation wing of Communist China’s navy.
(Janes) “Two sightings of surveillance aircraft within a month could indicate that the PLANAF is beginning to periodically base aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef,” Sean O’Connor, principal analyst at Jane’s, said in a press release. “Aircraft could be regularly rotated through the base from other PLANAF units in the South Sea Fleet.”
The Communist Chinese Lie (all the time)
Speaking at the White House in September 2015 after a meeting with then-U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping pushed back on U.S. concern over this issue, telling a news conference: “there is no intention to militarize” the artificial islands that they were completing. I’m sure that Barack bowed to him. Today Fiery Cross boasts hangars for fighter jets, bombers, and military transport planes, and has a deep harbor for accommodating and replenishing warships and ships of the Communist Chinese Coast Guard traveling far out into the South China Sea. China has also deployed surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles on Fiery Cross Reef, threatening any nearby navies and aircraft.
The Spratley Islands (now Chinese Nansha District) is also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Taiwan to the area.
China brushed their claims aside in true Communist Chinese fashion because none of those nations are strong enough to fight Red China in a bilateral war. One would think that those claimants would ally with other nations who could face down China – Japan for example.