As the U.S. attempts to pivot its national security focus to the Pacific, the situation in the South China Sea continues to grow more complex. China claims almost the entire area as its own and has running territorial disputes with nearly all of its neighbors, while tensions remain high in part due to the presence of a more aggressive People’s Liberation Army Navy.
The same day Pentagon leaders issued a new directive to focus the department on China, the PLAN has been deploying additional surveillance assets to one of its artificial island military bases in the South China Sea, according to new imagery reviewed by USNI News.
Satellite imagery from Wednesday provided by Maxar shows a Type-815G intelligence-gathering ship in the lagoon at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. On the airfield are a Chinese Navy Y-8Q maritime patrol aircraft and a KJ-500 airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) plane.
Fiery Cross Reef is one of several fortified artificial islands in the Spratlys. The Chinese government has used land reclamation to build a runway, harbor, and military base at its western end. The island is closer to Vietnam than mainland China and is also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.