From the News.com.au report:
China has installed a new platform in the Paracel Islands of the South China Sea, with satellite images revealing Beijing’s continuing quest for power in the disputed area.
Recent satellite imagery shows a new structure that appears to be anchored on the north edge of the Bombay Reef, with solar panels and a radome (a dome protecting radar or other equipment) on top.
According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, the dome appears to be an “Ocean E-Station”, a component of a larger “Blue Ocean Information Network” which the Chinese government is developing to aid its “exploration, exploitation and control” of the region. Judging by the dates of comparative satellite images, the dome was set up sometime between April and July this year.
The AMTI report suggests it’s part of a larger effort to “informationise” the maritime environment — in other words, to enhance the understanding of how to exploit and control the oceans by means of information technology.
Persistent technological surveillance may also decrease the need for ongoing patrolling by fisheries and navy vessels.
This could be especially useful for the Chinese government, considering the ongoing risk of conflict with competing nations in the disputed region.
As the Ocean E-Stations are passive systems, their legal status is unclear. But an AMTI report says the most likely possibility — given Bombay Reef’s strategic location — is that the systems are military in nature.
“The reef is directly adjacent to the major shipping lanes that run between the Paracels and the Spratly Islands to the south, making it an attractive location for a sensor array to extend Chinese radar or signals intelligence collection over that important sea lane,” the analysis states.
Bottom line from “Dai Xu, president of China’s Institute of Marine Safety and Co-operation” :
On the South China Sea specifically, he (Dai) said “freedom of navigation” advocated by the US is actually a provocation against China and an attack of Chinese sovereignty.
The strategic meeting engagement between the U.S. and China in the South China Sea is well underway.
RELATED: A column from January 2018 on Chinese preparations for winning “informationized local wars.” Also Chapter 3 of my latest book, Cocktails from Hell.