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.
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A report found that some members and staff felt the presence of armed guards outside the main visitor entrances did not create a welcoming atmosphereHANNAH MCKAY/EPA
Permanent armed guards were removed from the gate at which PC Keith Palmer was murdered after MPs complained their presence was intimidatory , police sources have told The Times. The fixed armed position at Carriage Gates was replaced at some point over the past two years by a mobile firearms patrol. Parliamentary security sources confirmed that the switch had occurred but claimed it was because of Scotland Yard s concerns that a static armed officer on a gate that was usually open would be vulnerable to attack. The change in deployment could explain why the terrorist Khalid Masood was shot dead by a police close protection officer who happened to be on the scene rather than by a uniformed firearms officer stationed at Westminster.
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Entrance left open for minutes after attack
Jihadi broke into Parliament as gates opened for a car carrying the Metropolitan Police’s Acting Commissioner
KHALID Masood broke into Parliament as gates opened for a car carrying Met Police Acting Commissioner Craig Mackey. The chief watched helpless in horror as the knifeman ran past his Range Rover waiting to go through Carriage Gates from the Commons.
Craig Mackey watched in horror as the jihadi ran past his Range Rover armed with a knife
PC Keith Palmer and another unarmed colleague challenged the jihadi while armed colleagues supposed to be behind them were apparently elsewhere. Burly Masood shrugged Pc Palmer s colleague off before repeatedly stabbing him in the neck and armpit leaving his stab-proof vest useless to protect him.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon s two Met Police close protection officers were sitting in a Land Rover in New Palace Yard and were alerted by shouts.
Khalid Masood rammed his car into Parliament s gates and ran into the grounds with a knife Astonishing video of PM Theresa May being rushed into car by elite armed cops as Westminster terrorist attack unfolds
Heroic MP Tobias Ellwood (centre) tried to save the cop but his efforts were tragically in vain Victims trapped as terrorist Khalid Masood smashes car into Parliament gates in Westminster
They opened fire on the knifeman, hitting him with three bullets. Masood was a short distance from an entrance the Commons chamber where MPs were voting on pensions. A Cabinet Brexit meeting was also taking place as the heart of British democracy came under attack.
Mackey stands alongside the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Home Secretary Amber Rudd during a vigil at Trafalgar Square Vigils held as parliament’s security is reviewed in the wake of Khalid Masood’s attack at Westminster
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An urgent review of security was carried out in the wake of the incident which began at 2.40pm on Wednesday when Masood ploughed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing two members of the public and injuring at least 40. The thick-set attacker, clad in black, smashed his rented Hyundai 4×4 into railings at the side of Parliament on Bridge Street. Wielding two large knives, he then ran 30 yards round the corner to the ornamental Carriage Gates allowing MP s vehicle access to the underground car park but banned to the public from entering.
Mackey addresses the media after a minute’s silence was observed outside New Scotland Yard A fund to help Keith Palmer’s bereaved family has raised over 300,000 American tourist Kurt Cochran was on a tour of Europe with his wife when he was fatally injured during the atrocity Teacher and mum-of-two Aysha Frade died on Westminster Bridge during the atrocity Theresa May praises MP Tobias Ellwood who tried to save PC Keith Palmer after London terror attack on Westminster
The Sun can reveal how the left hand gate was open at the time to allow Acting Commissioner Mackey s official car out of the Palace of Westminster after he had attended a security meeting there. One source said : It was incredible timing and very bad luck that the gates were opened just at that moment.
He ran into New Palace Yard as the acting commissioner was sitting there in his car looking on.
He was then challenged by Pc Palmer and a colleague but two armed officers who were supposed to be there were not in position.
It is thought that their attention may have been diverted by the noise of the car crashing and people yelling in panic. Acting Commissioner Mackey is being treated as a significant witness and therefore cannot take any direct role in the investigation.
The Met s response to the attack is being handled by acting deputy commissioner Mark Rowley and Assistant Commissioner Pat Gallan.
Jeremy Corbyn urges communities to stay united in wake of London terror attack on Westminster
An immediate security review carried out into the horror will be followed by a major scrutiny of protection at all Government buildings and potential targets. Questions were raised about the failure of armed police supposed to have been on guard at Carriage Gates to prevent Masood entering Parliament. Commons authorities are said to have been aware the Carriage Gates entrance was a “weak” spot following a previous security breach.
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