February 24th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Weatherill demand places Murray-Darling in jeopardy

EDITORIAL China completes island building in South China Sea

CANBERRA OBSERVED Greens: wouldn't know a cowardly act if they did one

REDEFINITION OF MARRIAGE Government forms say it is fluid gender marriage

FREEDOM AND LAW Gender and anti-discrimination: wedges between you and freedom

HISTORY A look back at B.A. Santamaria gives us a forward impulse

GENDER POLITICS Transgenderism: A state-sponsored religion

LAW AND SOCIETY Protecting freedom of religion in Australia

HISTORY Hungary, 62 years on from the anti-Soviet uprising

MUSIC Reel to real: Johann Johannsson, RIP

CINEMA Sweet Country: Sour taste of bush justice


BOOK REVIEW Lessons from the UK front of the GFC

BOOK REVIEW The dragon has woken and rumbled

BOOK REVIEW Recovery manual for morals and culture


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China completes island building in South China Sea

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, February 24, 2018

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) has published a report showing that China has virtually completed the building of a series of fortified air and naval bases on reclaimed reefs and atolls not far from Indonesia and the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Fiery Reef, in the Spratly Islands,
just off the Philippines' coast.

Some years ago, China was reported to have begun building islands on top of shallow reefs in the South China Sea, prompting other nations to express deep concern about China’s long-standing claim to sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.

The United States has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the area, and China’s land-building exercises have been condemned by Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). 

An overall view of Fiery Reef.

The area is close to vital international shipping lanes between north Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe. However, China has pushed ahead, building complete military bases on the reclaimed islands, including runways, docks, multistorey buildings, radar and communications facilities, and military fortifications.

AMTI was established to encourage transparency in the maritime world by the Washington-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), founded in 1962 at Georgetown University.

The CSIS has excellent connections with the U.S. defence and intelligence communities, and has a high reputation for the reliability of its reports.

The AMTI report includes both satellite and aerial photos of the Chinese bases.

 Seven new islands

The report says: “China completed the dredging and land-filling operations to create its seven new islands in the Spratlys by early 2016, and seems to have halted such operations to expand islets in the Paracels by mid-2017.

“But Beijing remains committed to advancing the next phase of its build-up – construction of the infrastructure necessary for fully functioning air and naval bases on the larger outposts.”

It adds: “AMTI has identified all the permanent facilities on which China completed or began work since the start of the year [2017].

Subi, or Zamora, Reef, also in the Spratly group.

“These include buildings ranging from underground storage areas and administrative buildings to large radar and sensor arrays. These facilities account for about 72 acres, or 290,000 square metres, of new real estate at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief reefs in the Spratlys, and North, Tree, and Triton islands in the Paracels.

“This does not include temporary structures like storage containers or cement plants, or work other than construction, such as the spreading of soil and planting of grass at the new outposts.”

AMTI reported that the new base that contained the most building over the past year was at Fiery Reef. It said that over the course of 2017, work on buildings covering about 110,000 square metres had been completed.

This included work previously documented by AMTI, including completion of large hangars alongside the airstrip, and work on large underground structures at the south of the island.

It is believed to house munitions or other military stores and equipment, a large communications/sensor array at the northeast end of the island, various radar/communications facilities spread around the islet, and hardened shelters for missile platforms at the south end of the reef.

The large underground tunnels AMTI identified previously for ammunition and other storage “have been completed and entirely buried. They join other underground structures previously built on the island, which include water and fuel storage.”

Thousands of military personnel are now also based on the reclaimed islands, providing a permanent Chinese military presence that is designed to present the world with a fait accompli.

Because of the long history of competing claims over parts of the South China Sea, about 15 years ago ASEAN negotiated an agreement not to build or modify any of the reefs or outcrops in the South China Sea.

Beijing, which is not part of ASEAN, accepted the agreement, and embarked on talks to establish a “code of conduct” for negotiating disagreements over who had what rights to which part of the sea.

Even after the island-building began, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that China would not militarise the reclaimed reefs.

But it has ignored its own diplomatic position, and undertaken the massive task of turning the reefs into island military fortresses; and recently, it has begun deploying Chinese military aircraft to the islands.

Peter Westmore is publisher of News Weekly.

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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm