China is not building refugee centres on its artificial islands. No, full-blown military bases are being set up. All to promote international understanding, of course.

“Worrying new satellite imagery suggests China is building “full-blown military bases” on controversial artificial islands in the South China Sea.

A report by geospatial software company Simularity has revealed what appears to be infrastructure for radars, antennae mounts and what could be a potential military base on Mischief Reef.

Classified as an atoll – a ring-shaped coral reef – located 250km from the Philippines, the landmass has been occupied and controlled by the People’s Republic of China since 1995.

The images show the construction in seven areas between May 2020 and February 2021.

One image dated May 7, 2020 clearly shows an empty plot of space, which is now occupied by a 16 metre-wide cylindrical structure which Simularity claims could be a “possible antennae mount structure”.

Another shot also shows a concrete structure with a spherical radome – a weatherproof enclosure used to protect a radar antennae – cover nearby. Simularity states this could “possibly be a fixed radar structure”.

Other sites are still mid-construction or have been cleared for further development.

Dr Jay Batongbacal, Director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs Law of the Sea in the University of the Philippines, says the new infrastructure suggests China is digging in.

“They’re basically adding on survey lens equipment, apparently radars – there’s already a lot of them in the reef in the first place,” he told Philippine broadcaster ANC.

“The addition of new radars appears to indicate they’re really expanding the capabilities of this artificial island. And then the fact it is continuing despite everything that has been going on in the rest of the world, it really indicates the intention of China to really fully develop these artificial islands into full-blown military bases.”