CHINA is expected to begin reclamation works at the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea later this year.
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the Chinese government may also add an airstrip to increase the air force’s presence in the contested waters.
Quoting a military source, the SCMP reported that Beijing would start work to establish a new outpost which was situated some 230km off the coast of the Philippines amid efforts by the U.S. and Manila to forge stronger military ties with each other.
The source said an impending ruling on territorial claims by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which would not serve in China’s favor, would accelerate the reclamation plan.
The decision, which is expected to be announced next month or in June, will be made following Manila’s request for the court to declare that Beijing must comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over the claims.
“Beijing will take action to carry out land reclamation at Huangyan Island within this year,” the source said.
The source added: “China should regain the initiative to do so because Washington is trying to contain Beijing by establishing a permanent military presence in the region.”
In March this year, the U.S. and Philippines started holding joint patrols in the South China Sea, while eight military bases in the Philippines were made accessible to U.S. forces, who have also gained footing in two air bases in Pampanga, which was over 300km from the shoal.
The Philippine president last month also said his country would lease five aircraft from Japan to help the local navy patrol Manila’s territory in the disputed South China Sea.
President Benigno Aquino III said that in addition to leasing the TC-90 training planes, the Philippines will also acquire a dozen military aircraft this year and in 2017 from other countries, including another two dozen FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea.
Aquino added that the government has spent more than 58 billion pesos (US$1.2 billion) from 2010, when his term started, to February this year to modernize the country’s ill-equipped armed forces.
The Philippines has turned to the U.S. and other allies like Japan as it scrambles to strengthen its underfunded military amid escalating territorial disputes with China.
Additional Reporting by Associated Press