18 April 2018
Manila may lodge a protest with Beijing after two Chinese military planes reportedly landed on an artificial island within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, the country’s top diplomat said on Wednesday.
Regional analysts said the move showed Beijing was growing more assertive in the disputed waterway.
The transport planes, believed to be Xian Y-7s, were seen landing on a ramp near Runway 21 on Mischief Reef, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said on Wednesday, citing surveillance photos taken in January obtained from a source.
Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ Maritime Security Programme in Singapore, said it was not a surprise to see a transport plane like the Xian Y-7 being used in the area, but there was concern in the region about what Beijing planned to do with its runways in the Spratlys.
“If China can land civilian planes, military transport planes in the Spratlys outposts, it’s only a matter of time before high-powered [aircraft] such as fighter jets and bombers may land there,” Koh said.
“Besides … transporting personnel and material to these islands as a routine activity, Beijing may also use such opportunities to demonstrate its ability to up the ante from a mere deployment of these harmless assets to armed planes, if necessary.”
IDSS / Online / Print
Last updated on 23/04/2018