The Great Wall of Sand

The South China Sea reef that became an island   Fiery Cross Reef has been transformed into a 2.8 sq km fortified airbase, in one of the several reclamation projects known as The Great Wall of Sand   Asia Times Staff Jan. 3, 2018 China’s frenzied reclamation projects in the South China Sea have dramatically changed reefs and islets in the hotly contested waters. Fiery Cross Reef – known also as Northwest Investigator Reef and Yongshu Reef to the Chinese – ballooned from a group of scattered reefs in the Spratly Islands to a 2.8-square-kilometer fortification, which is now reportedly the third largest island in the vast waters. In a year-end feature, Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television aired rare aerial footage of Fiery Cross Reef, which has been transformed into a big island dominated by a 3,125-meter runway, long enough for H-6K strategic bombers to land. It also has a hospital, plus military installations that include early warning radars and close-proximity weapons systems. China test-landed two civilian aircraft there in January 2016, one from China Southern Airlines and the other from Hainan Airlines. It’s now a vital logistics hub in the archipelago to support China’s claims of suzerainty over the entire sea. China Mobile and China Unicom have separate base stations there to provide ultra-fast 4.5G communication for the 200-plus soldiers stationed on Fiery Cross. With Beijing seemingly eager...

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