Until early 2014 the only manmade feature at the reef was a small concrete platform that housed a communications facility, garrison building, and pier. This platform has now been surrounded by an island that is approximately 400 m across at its widest points and has an area of about 100,000 m 2 .
Workers have built a reinforced seawall around the whole island. There are also two roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) docks and a pier on the northwest side. Foundations for what could be a large building can be seen on the southwestern side, while other elements include desalination pumps, a concrete plant, and a fuel dump.
Johnson South Reef is not the only Chinese construction site in the Spratly Islands. Images dated 13 September and released by Chinese state media show similar construction on Huayang Reef, known internationally as Cuateron Reef. The images of Cuateron Reef, which is part of the London Reefs group and on the southwest side of the Spratlys, show desalination plants, cranes, and drills, along with piles of construction materials.
AISLive ship tracking data reported by IHS Jane's in June 2014 showed Ting Jing Hao , a dredger responsible for most of China's land reclamation in the Spratlys, had visited Cuateron Reef three times since September 2013, most recently 10 April to 22 May 2014.
Ting Jing Hao was responsible for the lion's share of dredging at Johnson South Reef and has also visited Gaven Reefs, which is in the centre of the Spratly Islands and close to Itu Aba (Taiping Island). Itu Aba is occupied by Taiwan.
Images released by the Philippine government in August also showed substantial reclamation by China at Kennan (Chigua) Reef: one of the Union Reefs and surrounded by other reefs occupied by Vietnam.
In all the cases outlined above, China is building islands around concrete platforms that it constructed on the reefs during the 1980s and 1990s. As previously reported, China's extensive programme of land reclamation in the Spratlys ignores the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a non-binding statement that committed the disputing countries to avoid escalating the situation by construction or militarisation of the features they occupy.
As also previously reported, China is not the only country to ignore this declaration: Vietnam and Taiwan have both extended and upgraded facilities on their respective islands. However, Beijing's activities in the Spratlys in the past 12 months are a major challenge to the status quo as they create land masses that are capable of supporting garrisons in areas very close to the other countries' occupied territories.
The history of conflict in the South China Sea suggests that such bases could be used as jumping-off points for assaults on these nearby features, although so far China has preferred to emphasise its claims in the region by using paramilitary maritime vessels and blockades."
Original article at http://www.janes.com/article/43456/china-advances-with-johnson-south-reef-construction