China’s Shiny New Air Bases in the South China Sea

A colorful graphic insert from the June 2016 Chinese naval magazine Naval and Merchant Ships [舰船知识] offers a troubling glimpse of one possible future for the South China Sea. A map on the graphic accurately displays Beijing’s three new long runways that have been built up since 2014 in the Spratlys, alongside overlapping range arcs for HQ-9 air defense systems (200km), YJ-62 truck launched anti-ship cruise missiles (300km), as well as for J-11 and JH-7 fighter/attack aircraft (1500km). More disquieting still is that there is next to the map an image depicting a burning aircraft carrier, struck by cruise missiles launched from surrounding Chinese frigates, as well as from shore-based launchers. Part of the caption for this colorful graphic suggests that “each of the reefs can offer mutual support to one another effectively enabling control of our country’s South China Sea area”

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