Airport tower, radar spotted on China's 1st runway in Spratlys
MANILA, Philippines – An exclusive report of the international news network CNN on Thursday, May 21, showed that China has constructed an airport tower and installed an early warning radar at the Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, the site of its first runway in the disputed Kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratly Islands) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). (READ: PH runway in Spratlys erodes as China reclaims to build own)
"It appears to be a build-up of a military infrastructure," US Navy commander Captain Mike Parker told CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, who joined a flight of US military spy plane P8-A Poseidon over the disputed seas on May 20.
CNN also witnessed how China challenged the US plane to stay away from the Chinese-occupied reclaimed area. "We were just challenged probably 30 minutes ago. The challenge came from the Chinese Navy and I'm highly confident it came from the shore. All these facility here," Parker said while showing photos taken by the plane's advance surveillance cameras of the reclaimed islands in between Vietnam and the Philippines.
China has repeatedly challenged Philippine planes on maritime patrol mission. Rappler reported two weeks ago that even a US plane a was not spared. (READ: China challenges US plane during Balikatan war games and China continues to harass PH air patrols in West PH Sea)
China's construction of a runway in the disputed area will mean China's air assets will be present in an area already dominated by its ships. Taiwanese-held Itu Aba island also has a runway.
A small Filipino community lives in one of the islands in the Spratlys. (READ: Residents of Pag-asa: Life on a disputed island) – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com