Satellite images suggest China has upgraded its military infrastructure in the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, according to a U.S. think tank.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said on Wednesday that China now occupied 20 outposts in the Paracels, and that there had been an extensive military build-up on eight islands.
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"Three of these now have protected harbors capable of hosting large numbers of naval and civilian vessels. Four others boast smaller harbors, with a fifth under construction at Drummond Island," the group said on its website. "Five of the islands contain helipads, with Duncan Island housing a full helicopter base. And the largest of the Paracels, Woody Island, sports an airstrip, hangars and a [detachment] of HQ-9 surface-to-air missile batteries."
The group said further expansion could help Beijing consolidate its presence and project its power in the region.