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New Satellite Photos Show China Building Artificial Archipelago In East Sea

Over the last few months, a number of impressive and unsettling satellite images have made their way into the press, showing China’s ongoing construction of outposts on disputed reefs throughout the East Sea.

The latest instance of China’s terraforming is taking place on Mischief Reef that is claimed by a number of countries, including Vietnam, China, the Philippines and Taiwan.

These new satellite photos from The Center for Strategic and International Studies show how the country is turning a small reef normally used by fisherman into a permanent outpost.

The reef, located 800 kilometers from mainland China and 210 kilometers from the Philippine island of Palawan, has immense value as it lies near one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and may also be sitting on top of oil reserves.

According to the report from CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, in February, a Chinese “Amphibious Transport Dock” was seen near the reef and was soon joined by dredging machines that funneled sand from the entrance of the reef to build up the “rim.” A month later, “new structures, fortified seawalls, and construction equipment are present at several locations along the reef. Several dredgers are also present, and construction appears to be ongoing,” the CSIS writes.

Beyond the geopolitical implications of China's island building are environmental ones. On Monday, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said that the practice is causing “irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance” of the reef, adding that “China has pursued these activities unilaterally, disregarding people in the surrounding states who have depended on the sea for their livelihood for generations."

As this is just one of many disputed reefs and atolls in the East Sea, expect to see a lot more news like this in the future.

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