Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Fiery Cross Reef

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Location  South China Sea
Archipelago  Spratly Islands
Prefecture-level city  Sansha
Fiery Cross Reef ichef1bbcicouknews624cpsprodpb91C0product
Area  Natural: 0 ha Reclaimed: 274 ha

South china seas territorial disputes china building massive island at fiery cross reef

Fiery Cross Reef, also known as "Northwest Investigator Reef", Yongshu Island (永暑岛) or Yongshu Reef (永暑礁) by the Chinese, "Kagitingan Reef" by the Filipinos, and "Đá Chữ Thập" by the Vietnamese, was a group of three reefs on the western edge of Dangerous Ground in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea. The area is controlled by China (as part of Sansha) and is also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.


Map of Fiery Cross Reef

The reef was named after the Fiery Cross, a British Tea Clipper lost there on 4 March 1860 (later its more famous sister ship took the same name). The reef was surveyed by Lieutenant J. W. Reed of the HMS Rifleman, who reported it to be one extensive reef in 1867, and found the apparent wrecks of the Fiery Cross and the Meerschaum.

Fiery Cross Reef has been occupied by China since 1988 when a UNESCO Marine observation station was built there. In 2014, China commenced reclamation activity in the area, and it has been converted into an artificial island of 2.74 square kilometres (1.06 sq mi). There were around 200 Chinese troops on the reef in late 2014, though this number was likely to have increased significantly in 2015 with the addition of support personnel for the new airbase (including 3,125 m-long runway) and associated early warning radar site.

Geographical features

On 12 July 2016, the tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration concluded that Fiery Cross Reef contains, within the meaning of Article 121(1) of the Convention, naturally formed areas of land, surrounded by water, which are above water at high tide. However, for purposes of Article 121(3) of the Convention, the high-tide features at Fiery Cross Reef is rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own and accordingly shall be entitled to 12nm of territorial sea measured from its baseline but have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

GLOSS sea level monitoring station

In 1987, following a UNESCO (IOC/UNESCO) meeting in March, it was agreed that the PRC would build weather stations in the South China sea as part of the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) survey.

During the meeting of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO 17 March - 1 April in Paris, the Delegate of the People'Republic of China, speaking higly of GLOSS, noted a few mistakes in the text of Document IOC/INF-663 rev.; for instance, "Taiwan" is listed as a "country" in relevant Tables contained in the Document. He therefore requested that such mistakes be corrected in the forthcoming revision of the Document. The scientists from Global Sea Level Observing System agreed that China would install tide gauges on what it considered to be its coasts in the East China Sea and on the "Nansha islands" in South China Sea. The scientists were unaware of regional political disputes, including Taiwanese territorial claims to one of the Spratly islands.

In April 1987, the PRC chose to build a weather station on Fiery Cross reef as the reef was large enough for the purpose, and it was isolated from other disputed islands and reefs. However, this caused further skirmishes with Vietnam when, in January 1988, some Vietnamese ships with construction materials tried to approach the reef in a bid to construct Vietnamese structures.

The weather station was commissioned by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission(IOC). Construction was commenced in February 1988 and completed in August 1988.

Land reclamation

During 2014 the PRC government began reclamation activities to construct a large artificial island to support an approximately 3,300 metres (10,800 ft) airstrip and seaport. Although the PRC has a 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) runway in the Paracel Islands, China had been at a disadvantage compared with other claimants in the Spratly Islands as it was the only claimant that did not have an island hosting an airfield. The airport was completed in January 2016, and is currently the southernmost one within the area controlled by the People's Republic of China. China also test-landed civil aircraft, two airliners, one from China Southern Airlines and another from Hainan Airlines, there in January 2016.

In late 2016, photographs emerged which suggested that Fiery Cross Reef has been armed with anti-aircraft weapons and a CIWS missile-defence system.


Fiery Cross Reef Wikipedia

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