Satellite images show that Vietnam is simultaneously carrying out construction works on three islands in the South China Sea (Vietnam calls it the East Sea).
Planet Labs images analyzed by Radio Free Asia (RFA) show construction activities underway on Phan Vinh, Nam Yet (Namyit) and Son Ca islands – all in the Truong Sa (Spratlys)
RFA was the first press agency to report on new reclamation activities on Phan Vinh Island on October 20. Since then, there have been additional activities to build a structure that looks like a marina or harbor in two parts.
Phan Vinh Island has been expanded by about six acres but according to the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), all of this reclamation was done by 2014.
Similarly, on two other Vietnamese-controlled features, Nam Yet and Son Ca islands, it appears that construction of piers is also underway to facilitate access to the island and provide shelter for ships.
Vietnam analysts say that the country typically conducts anti-erosion and landslide protection works to protect rather than expand or alter the structure of features under its control.
According to the new strategy of Vietnam’s government, Vietnam is looking to civilize islands in the East Sea to promote economic development and better protect the country’s sovereignty – Lieutenant Colonel Luu Van Nhiem, a senior officer of Squadron 11, Coast Guard Region 1 Command said in a recent article in the state-controlled press.
According to AMTI, Vietnam has 49 or 51 outposts in the East Sea, scattered in 27 features, including 10 islets. The organization also said that since 2014, Vietnam has “modestly expanded” many of the features it occupies in the South China Sea. At least four of these features have harbor facilities accessible to civilian vessels for resupply or shelter in bad weather.
China, which claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, has been criticizing other countries, especially Vietnam, for its construction efforts on islands in the region.
Meanwhile, the South China Sea Probing Initiative, an organization specializing in the study of the South China Sea based in Beijing, China, alleged that an area of more than 17,000 square meters (4.2 acres) has been reclaimed. at the western tip of Nam Yet island – where no obvious renovation works have been seen so far.
According to AMTI, until 2016, Vietnam expanded more than 120 new acres of land in the East Sea while China’s figure was nearly 3,000 acres.
However, despite the differences in scale, “the principles of the reclamation activities by Vietnam, China, and the Philippines on their islands are the same,” said Mark Valencia, a scholar at the China Institute for South China Sea Studies argues.
According to the expert, “China and all other claimants are taking actions that increase tensions.”
“There are no angels in the South China Sea,” Valencia said.
According to AMTI, since 2014, China has also built military infrastructure in the Spratlys and Hoang Sa (Paracels), including radar systems, airstrips, and surface-to-air cruise missile systems. and anti-ship.
Vietnam has only one airstrip in Spratlys, which it has occupied since the early 20th century.