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Beijing’s Largest Island in Disputed South China Sea Island Has 400 Buildings

© REUTERS / Planet Labs Inc/Handout via REUTERS Satellite photo dated March 20, 2018 shows Subi Reef.
Satellite photo dated March 20, 2018 shows Subi Reef. - Sputnik International
China’s largest man-made island in the South China Sea is host to nearly 400 buildings, new satellite data shows.

Earthrise Media, a nonprofit that specializes in using satellite imagery to present viewers with the "Earthrise" effect, or sense of perspective that astronauts experience looking at the Earth from space, announced the discovery Wednesday, Reuters reported. The photos, obtained from DigitalGlobe's high-resolution WorldView satellites, showed a large number of buildings on Subi Reef, among them an airstrip, hangars, parade grounds, radar equipment and sports facilities.

US Navy handout photo, flight deck crew launch an EA-18G Growler from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) (File) - Sputnik International
China Jammed US Navy Jet’s Equipment as It Patrolled South China Sea

Subi is an artificial island, constructed by the Chinese government on a reef that is only naturally above the waterline at low tide. The Chinese government has developed enormous dredging ships, such as the Tian Kun Hao, to pull the seafloor up to create and expand islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Tian Kun Hao can dredge "212,000 cubic feet of sediment from the ocean floor every hour — enough to fill three Olympic swimming pools," Sputnik reported.

Other facilities known to have been installed on Subi Island include anti-ship and anti-air missiles, cruise missiles and submarine detection equipment. Large military transport aircraft have also been spotted on Subi and other islands in the Spratly chain in recent months, fueling speculation that large numbers of People's Liberation Army soldiers have been, or could be, stationed on the islands, Sputnik reported.

Haiyang Shiyou oil rig 981, the first deep-water drilling rig developed in China, is pictured at 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Hong Kong in the South China Sea. - Sputnik International
Beijing Claims Control Over All Oil, Gas Activity in South China Sea

The Spratly chain includes over 100 islands and reefs and is claimed, at least in part, by several nations including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, China and Taiwan. Each nation has produced documentation proving their sovereignty over the islands and the neighboring Paracel Islands going back centuries, the BBC reported. The sea surrounding the islands is poorly explored, but it contains rich fishing areas and is believed to contain large hydrocarbon reserves, as it is proximate to known oil and natural gas fields.

Roughly $2.8 trillion in trade transits the South China Sea waterway every year, the Diplomat reported, citing the Center for Strategic and International Studies' China Power project.

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