Blog Editor’s Note: China has been jamming US drones and patrols in the area for a while. Installing jamming equipment on the Spratly Islands extends the reach of their ability to disrupt systems while reinforcing their sovereignty claims.
(Interesting how on the inset map below showing the location of the Spratly Islands, you can see the Philippines, Vietnam and even Malaysia nearby. But no China. Yet China insists the islands belong to them…)
China has installed equipment on two of its fortified outposts in the Spratly Islands capable of jamming communications and radar systems, a significant step in its creeping militarization of the South China Sea, U.S. officials say.
The move strengthens China’s ability to assert its extensive territorial claims and hinder U.S. military operations in a contested region that includes some of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
The disclosure comes as the Chinese military is conducting what U.S. officials describe as its largest military exercise to date in the South China Sea, maneuvers that include China’s first aircraft carrier as well as air force and ground units.
A U.S. Defense Department official, describing the finding, said: “China has deployed military jamming equipment to its Spratly Island outposts.”
The U.S. assessment is supported by a photo taken last month by the commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe and provided to The Wall Street Journal. It shows a suspected jammer system with its antenna extended on Mischief Reef, one of seven Spratly outcrops where China has built fortified artificial islands since 2014, moving sand onto rocks and reefs and paving them over with concrete.
China’s Defense Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment.