China is outfitting its controversial artificial islands in the South China Sea with warplane hangars and weapons, the Pentagon said in a report released Tuesday.
According to the report, the People's Liberation Army Air Force intends to base three regiments of warplanes there.
"Although its land reclamation and artificial islands do not strengthen China's territorial claims as a legal matter or create any new territorial sea entitlements, China will be able to use its reclaimed features as persistent civil-military bases to enhance its presence in the South China Sea and improve China's ability to control the features and nearby maritime space," the report stated.
Last year's assessment reported Beijing had completed its reclamation work on the islands – but this year's report mentions a military infrastructure for the first time, Defense One reported.
According to the report, new installations include airfields with runways of at least 8,800 feet, water and fuel storage, large port facilities, 24 fighter-sized hangars, communications facilities, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, and administration buildings.
China could soon have new, advanced warplanes to base on those man-made islands, and two new stealth fighters could be read as soon as next year, the report stated.
The United States has refused to recognize China's claims it has historical ownership of the region – and has been sending military ships and aircraft near them, Defense One reported.
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