As tensions ease, China keeps building on disputed islands

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By MATTHEW PENNINGTON

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Tensions over China’s island-building in the South China Sea may have eased in the past year, but Beijing has kept busy.

New satellite imagery shows China has built infrastructure covering 72 acres (28 hectares) in the Spratly and Paracel islands during 2017 to equip its larger outposts to be air and naval bases.

The Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative closely tracks developments in the South China Sea, where China and several Asian governments have conflicting territorial claims. It says there’s construction of hangars, underground storage, missile shelters and radar arrays.

The activity comes as China steps up diplomacy with the other claimants and as tensions with the U.S. ease.

The construction is the follow-up phase to a campaign of land reclamation that was completed by early 2016 in the Spratlys.

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