Major construction at three of China s large man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea is wrapping up, allowing Beijing to deploy fighter jets and mobile missile launchers to the area at any time, a think tank said Monday. The building of military and dual-use infrastructure on the so-called Big 3 islands in the contested Spratly chain Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross reefs is in the final stages, with the naval, air, radar and defensive facilities largely complete, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI). All three islands boast hangers that can accommodate 24 fighter jets and four larger planes, including surveillance, transport, refueling or bomber aircraft. Hardened shelters with retractable roofs for mobile missile launchers have also been built on the islands.
China has also constructed significant radar and sensor arrays on all three islands, positioning them close to point defense structures to provide protection against air or missile strikes. The think tank s analysis of satellite images offers some of the most conclusive evidence that, contrary to Beijing s assertions, China has continued to militarize the waters as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims. China has built seven man-made islets in the hotly contested Spratlys, with three boasting military-grade airfields despite a 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping not to further militarize them.
China s three air bases in the Spratlys and another on Woody Island in the Paracels will allow Chinese military aircraft to operate over nearly the entire South China Sea, AMTI said in the report. The same is true of China s radar coverage, made possible by advanced surveillance/early-warning radar facilities at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Cuarteron Reefs, as well as Woody Island, and smaller facilities elsewhere.
China has maintained HQ-9 surface-to-air missile systems on Woody Island in the South China Sea s Paracel chain for more than a year and has deployed anti-ship cruise missiles to the island on at least one occasion, the report noted. Experts have said that deployment could be a blueprint for how China will proceed with its Spratly facilities.
Building a network of outposts in the South China Sea is a strategically assertive way to tilt the regional military balance in China s favor, according to a report released last year by Australia s Lowy Institute think tank entitled Shifting Waters: China s New Passive Assertiveness in Asian Maritime Security.
These strategic outposts will permit Beijing to enhance its power projection capabilities and establish anti-access zones right across the South China Sea, the report said. China will be able to extend the range and endurance of military and coast guard patrols; forward deploy air force, navy, and coast guard assets; and conduct aerial patrols over disputed waters, possibly in support of a future ADIZ (aid defense identification zone). The same report also said that a combination of ground-based radar facilities, air defenses, anti-ship missiles and forward-based fighter jets would facilitate the development of mini-denial zones extending southward from China s Hainan Island that it could use to effectively chase the U.S. Navy out of the waterway.
Monday s revelations of the near-complete construction at the three islands in the Spratlys comes ahead of plans by Japan to dispatch its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May.
Gazette-Mail file photo
The House of Delegates on Saturday approved a bill aimed at jump-starting the process of trying to protect West Virginians from future flooding and reduce damage to lives and property from floods that do occur. House members voted 96-0 in favor of the bill, with delegates standing during the vote in honor of victims of the June 2016 floods, which killed 23 people. The legislation now goes to the Senate.
House Bill 2935 creates a State Flood Protection Planning Council, a multi-agency panel that would resume examination of a long-ignored plan aimed at protecting communities across the state from flooding. It would also create a permanent legislative committee that would oversee flood protection, response and recovery efforts.
I am grateful today for the House of Delegates unanimous support for this legislation, said House Speaker Tim Armstead, the bill s lead sponsor. I believe this bill, and the committee and council it creates, will be a crucial step forward in improving our planning and mitigation of future disasters.
The bill appears to be the first significant move by lawmakers this session to revisit a long-dormant Flood Protection Plan which was published more than a dozen years ago, but never fully implemented. Armstead, whose own home was flooded last year, called for the state to reassess the flood protection plan following a Gazette-Mail story that described how a team from various agencies worked for years to write the flood protection plan. The council created by the legislation would be made up of the director of the Division of Natural Resources, the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, the executive director of the State Conservation Agency, the secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the secretary of Transportation, the adjutant general of the National Guard and the director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The council would be required to review and update the Flood Protection Plan, recommend legislation to reduce or mitigate flood damage and report to the Legislature on such issues. Absent and not voting on the bill in the House were Delegates Ellington, G. Foster, Hicks and Upson. Reach Ken Ward Jr. at [email protected], 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.
Now is the time to support the arts
These are strange times in the arts business. In speaking to legislators, I am often amazed by their knowledge of the arts, by their level and by the level of passion they carry for it. Ask legislators about the importance of art and culture in our communities and the need for supporting it, and they will absolutely agree. Discuss culture’s contribution as a community builder and economic driver, and they understand. Talk about the creative workforce (140,000 strong in Louisiana) as the engine that cranks tourism in our state, and they get it. And yet, ask those same officials to put some money behind these insights and you will most likely hear mumblings of being broke or other, higher priorities. We are faced with a threat that could be the demise of the NEA, NEH, LPB, Louisiana’s NPR stations and could affect most every part of Louisiana cultural life, from festivals to symphonies, from museums to rural community centers, from classes for the elderly and disadvantaged to large venues and local artists. Already almost half of the arts organizations in this country operate at a deficit.
The trickle-down effect of proposed federal cuts will hit small states and rural areas the most. Already, the state has virtually eliminated arts funding, and arts grants are being kept on life support with transfer dollars from other departments. We have heard for years that we should do more with less, focus on collaboration and maximize impact by combining forces or operate like a business. We have done all of this and more, only to realize that without funding, we are working against the tide. This is a time when we need to take a stand and demand more. This is a time when we need to say: enough. Yes, we must invest in cultural infrastructure, just as we must invest in physical infrastructure. This is an easy investment, as it returns $7 to $1 to the tax coffers by the end of each fiscal year and generates on average $24 to $1 in local economic stimulus. Yes, we can afford federal funding for the arts, which currently accounts for 0.02 percent of federal spending or roughly 37 cents per citizen per year. Yes, even Louisiana – especially Louisiana – must invest in its culture, because it is our natural resource, preserves heritage and builds community and prosperity. Gerd Wuestemann
Executive director, Acadiana Center for the Arts
Rebuilding our military
Trump proposes a military rebuild
As a Navy veteran and a strong supporter of our military, I commend President Trump for initiating a program to rebuild our military with a defense budget increase of $54 billion, but it should be decreased by $1.3 billion and the $1.3 billion added to the Coast Guard budget within the Department of Homeland Security so it is not cut by $1.3 billion.
Our military has dramatically shrunk and been neglected in recent times. Although we have increased the capabilities of our military through technological advances, we have downsized our forces, and we have not adequately replaced worn-out equipment. Due to the cuts imposed by the 2014 sequestration act, our army has significantly decreased from a high of 570,000 soldiers after 9/11, and it is heading down to 450,000. The Marines are going from 184,000 to 175,000 and the National Guard and reserves will lose tens of thousands. The Air Force will have 700 fewer aircraft, and the Navy remains at 286 ships. My Navy has 11 carrier battle groups but at any one time a number of them are not available due to overhaul and maintenance requirements, in port rest and relaxation and ships in transit. It should have 12 carrier battle groups to fulfill its global missions in a dangerous world. George Will in an article on Oct. 1, 2015, stated “the sun never sets” on our Navy. Potential adversaries continue to build up their military forces. Iran has a large army and continues with its missile development program. North Korea continues to test long-range missiles and develop nuclear armaments.
The two significant potential adversaries are China and Russia. China has a huge army, is adding to its air force, and is building up its navy, including aircraft carriers and submarines. China lays claim to the South China Sea and has established island bases in the region, which our Navy will have to contest. Russia is rebuilding its navy and maintains a large army and air force, and it continues to threaten Europe. Trump should continue to rebuild our military so we can meet the military challenges in the world, preserve our national security and keep the peace. President Trump, please stop your unpresidential tweets and concentrate on the important matters that affect our national security and our economy.