April 10 (UPI) — China may have installed military jamming equipment on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, an international body of water Beijing has claimed as its own within what it calls the “nine-dash line.”
The jamming equipment was deployed to the Spratly Islands, which are also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The rising Chinese military presence in the maritime area comes amid reports China is taking an interest in building a base in the South Pacific, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
China’s deployment of jammers was confirmed by commercial satellite imagery, taken by the firm DigitalGlobe and provided to The Journal.
The image shows a jammer system and its antenna on Mischief Reef, which the Chinese have converted into an artificial island by transferring sand to rocks and reefs.
But The Diplomat stated the images alone are not enough to determine the equipment’s function.
China defended the Spratly Islands on Tuesday as “Chinese territory” that is “helpful to protecting national sovereignty and security.”
“China’s stationing of troops and deployment of facilities for homeland defense on the islands and reefs is the natural right of a sovereign nation,” said Senior Col. Ren Guoqiang.
Chinese interests may also extend well beyond its borders.
Australian media reports state China has been in “preliminary discussion” with the government of Vanuatu.
Beijing could be planning to build a military base, which, if completed, would be the first overseas Chinese base in the Pacific.
China has been delivering “hundreds of millions of dollars” of development money to the South Pacific nation and has pledged to build a new residence for Prime Minister Charlot Salwai.
Experts say a Chinese military base in Vanuatu would “challenge” U.S. dominance in the Pacific.