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Vietnam vs. China: Island Build-up Race Heating Up in South China Sea

Daniel Kim Views  

Vietnam is ramping up its artificial island construction due to its territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. The area of the Vietnamese artificial islands has grown more than sevenfold in the past three years, reaching half the size of China’s.

Vietnam has been aggressively expanding its territory in the South China Sea over the past six months. According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative’s new report under the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S. think tank, Vietnam has newly reclaimed 1.08 square miles in the Spratly Islands, similar to the area reclaimed over the past two years (1.17 square miles).

The report stated, “Compared to three years ago when Vietnam’s area (0.51 square miles) was less than a tenth of China’s total, this is a massive improvement.” Vietnam has expanded its reclamation area by about 7.2 times in three years and now reaches half the size of China, at 3.69 square miles compared to China’s 7.26 square miles.

The three largest artificial islands in the South China Sea are Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef, a militarized reef occupied and controlled by China. However, with all of Vietnam’s artificial islands ranking 4-10, Vietnam is quickly catching up. Vietnam’s artificial islands also made the list of the largest artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, ranking 4-7 and 10.

Over the past six months, the area of Barque Canada Reef has nearly doubled from 0.37 square miles to 0.64 square miles. The report mentioned, “With an enormous length of 14,173 feet, it has the potential to have a 9,842-foot runway like China’s three major artificial islands.” Vietnam currently has only a 4,265-foot runway on Spratly Island (Vietnamese name Truong Sa Island), which can operate most military aircraft. Still, a 9,842-foot runway is necessary for large military transport aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, and bombers.

Vietnam has also started preliminary construction of new facilities at various outposts alongside their development. A new ship entrance has been completed on Namyit Island, and a new port is under construction on Central Reef Island. Mooring and coastal defense facilities are underway at various locations on Vietnam’s artificial islands. The report also noted that “temporary helipads are now available on several expanding landforms.”

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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