01 July 2017

News Story: As it engages Duterte, China keeps building in South China Sea

By Camille Diola

MANILA, Philippines — New satellite imagery released by a Washington-based think tank shows that there has been no letup in the construction of military facilities in the Philippines' maritime backyard despite the warming up of Manila's relations with Beijing.

Over the past few months, the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative observed the installation of new missile shelters, radar and communications facilities and other infrastructure on man-made islands sitting on Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan), Mischief Reef (Panganiban) and Subi Reef (Zamora).

The continuing activities in the disputed waters claimed by the Philippines persisted while China is engaging with its Southeast Asian neighbors on the framing of a binding code of conduct to hopefully manage South China Sea disputes.

The report said that the images suggest that "while the region is engaged in peaceful discussion, China remains committed to developing its power projection capabilities."

In May, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte restored direct negotiations with Beijing. Duterte has led a marked foreign policy pivot away from the Philippines' traditional ally, the United States, and toward China over the past year immediately after a United Nations-backed tribunal ruled in favor of Manila's maritime claims and dismissed China's.

The Manila-Beijing dialogue mechanism was reestablished for the first time in six years following a period of tense engagement under President Benigno Aquino III. Duterte, in contrast, flew into China twice—for an official visit and to attend the Xi Jinping-led "One Belt, One Road" summit—in his first year in office.

Read the full story at PhilStar << New images of China's Artificial Islands