China appears to be constructing an airstrip on a disputed South China Sea island that is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, according to satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press.
The work on Triton island in the Paracel group mirrors construction on seven human-made islands in the Spratly group to the east which have been equipped with airstrips, docks and military systems, although it currently appears to be somewhat more modest in scale.
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea as its own, denying the claims of others and defying an international ruling invalidating its assertion.
Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by the AP show construction on the airstrip first visible in early August. The runway, as currently laid out, would be more than 600 meters (2,000 feet) in length, long enough to accommodate turboprop aircraft and drones, but not fighter jets or bombers.
Also visible are large numbers of vehicle tracks running across much of the island, along with what appear to be containers and construction equipment.