Vietnam undertakes land reclamation in disputed South China Sea

US research institute says Vietnam has undertaken significant land reclamation in disputed South China Sea

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said on Thursday that Vietnam has carried out significant land reclamation at two sites in the disputed South China Sea, according to newly released satellite images. 

"On one site, it has constructed a significant new area that was formerly under water and at another it has used land reclamation to add acreage to an existing island," said Mira Rapp-Hooper, director of CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. 

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is thought to be rich in oil and gas, and its speed of reclamation in the area has alarmed its neighbors - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan - and also the United States.

In early April US President Barack Obama accused China using its power to push around smaller nations in the South China Sea and advance its maritime claims. 

China, on the other hand, hit back at the US allegations by accusing Vietnam, the Philippines and others of carrying out illegal building work in the disputed South China Sea.

The satellite images show that Vietnam has reclaimed about 65,000 square meters of land at West London Reef and 21,000 square meters at Sand Cay, verifying China’s claims.

However, they also show the total land reclaimed by Vietnam is ten times less than China reclaimed at a single reef in Fiery, around 900,000 square meters. 

Rapp-Hooper also said China was constructing a military-sized air strip on one artificial island and possible a second on another, adding that Vietnam already had an airstrip on the Spratlys.

The satellite images were taken between 2010 and April 30 this year, said Mira Rapp-Hooper.

TRTWorld and agencies