Based on recent satellite photos, China appears to be building an airstrip on Triton Island, which is a disputed island in the South China Sea.
China’s development on Triton Island, a Paracel group island that is also claimed by both Taiwan and Vietnam, reportedly resembles China’s previous construction on seven man-made islands in the Spratly group region.
China’s man-made islands have been outfitted with airstrips, military systems, and docks, according to The Associated Press. However, satellite images have indicated that China’s development of Triton Island is not as extensive as its development of other islands in the South China Sea.
Despite the international community ruling against China’s claim to the entire South China Sea, the Communist nation has continued to deny other nation’s claims to islands in the region.
According to The Drive, if the images of China’s new construction are confirmed as an airstrip, the airstrip would be roughly 2,000 feet long and 45 feet wide, which would make it shorter and narrower than other airstrips. While the airstrip could be used for light aircraft, turboprops, helicopters, and drones, it would not be functional for larger aircraft, such as bombers.
According to NBC News, the Chinese Foreign Ministry told reporters the recent reports surrounding construction on Triton Island are “inconsistent with the facts.”
“China’s construction activities on our own territory are legitimate and lawful, and beyond reproach,” Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said.
Despite China’s assurances, experts believe the satellite images reveal China’s development of an airstrip or a roadway. Raymond Powell, an expert on China’s maritime strategy from Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, stated, “The imagery shows either a runway or a road extending to the east from the developed area. Regardless of which it turns out to be, it’s a clear indication that China intends to make significant upgrades to its military outpost at Triton Island.”