Aerial photos aired by China Central Television show the completed construction of facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, one of Beijing's artificial islands in the Spratly Islands. CCTV via Asia Times

Fiery Cross Reef transformed into Chinese airbase, says report
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - January 4, 2018 - 5:46am

MANILA, Philippines — Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef, one of Beijing's artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, has been transformed into a fortified airbase complete with military installations.

A yearend feature aired by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television showed an aerial shot of Fiery Cross Reef which has transformed into a big island.

Hong Kong-based news site Asia Times reported that the island now features a 3,125-meter runway for 6K strategic bombers to land.

The island also has a hospital and military facilities including early warning radars and close-proximity weapons systems. More than 200 soldiers are also stationed on Fiery Cross, according to the report.

Telecommunications provider China Mobile and China Unicom have base stations in the island to provide 4.5G communications.

One of China's "great wall of sand" in the South China Sea, Manila-claimed Fiery Cross Reef is now reportedly the third largest island in the contested waters.

In June 2015, Chinese online news agency Sina first released photos from the Fiery Cross Reef showing vegetable gardens, animals and female soldiers in a bid to assert dominance in the maritime area. The slideshow did not show photos of military structures and radar captured in satellite photos prior to the release of Beijing's projects in the artificial island.

Beijing first test-landed two civilian aircraft in January 2016. The first visitors of the reef were wives and children of garrison soldiers and officers there.

Since then, the island has become a logistics hub for China.

In April 2016, China's navy dispatched a military plane to Fiery Cross Reef to pick up injured construction workers.

The Department of Defense then said that China's efforts of landing a military aircraft in the island were provocative. This occurred before the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a ruling on the Philippines' arbitration against China, which invalidated Beijing's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

RELATED: More Chinese island-building? Rody relies on ‘good faith’

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