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September 20, 2017

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China expands installation in disputed waters

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Latest intelligence shows that China is beefing up its presence at a China-controlled reef in the South China Sea to boost its sovereignty claims over the disputed waters, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday.

Asked by a lawmaker to comment on recent media reports that China may have been building an airstrip at the Chinese-held Johnson South Reef since January, Major General Lo Hsiao-tung (羅曉東) of the MND yesterday said that its intelligence shows that Chinese forces have been engaged in earthmoving activities on the reef for some time.

However, Lo said there are currently no signs that China is going to build an airstrip at the reef known to Chinese as Chigua Reef and which the Philippines calls Mabini Reef.

Beijing and Manila both claim sovereignty over the disputed sea.

"Our intelligence indicates that China is now engaged in a 300-meter water diversion construction project on the existing wharf of the reef," Lo said.

The MND suspects that the latest round of construction is intended to enable the wharf to dock bigger vessels. The new project could also mean that China is planning to build a helicopter landing pad or other surveillance facilities at the reef, he added.

Lo made the comments in response to questions raised by ruling Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), who called on the MND to beef up its military presence in the South China Sea in response to the growing threat from China.

According to Lin, the Chinese military has been engaged in large-scale reclamation and earthmoving activities at the reef since September 2013.

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