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03 августа 2015, 19:59

Why So Many Countries Are Building Airstrips on These Remote Islands


Why So Many Countries Are Building Airstrips on These Remote Islands

The Spratly islands are not a natural spot for a layover. They are isolated—tiny, shallow islands spread out over a huge chunk of the South China Sea. So why are so many nations rushing to construct airline runways and other infrastructure there?

On a map, the islands look like someone flicked a paintbrush at Earth and left a trail of tiny, barely visible patches of paint on the canvas of the ocean. Together, they only constitute a minuscule square-mile-and-a-half of sand. Yet over the past decade, and especially over the past year, they’ve become the focus international political tension as several countries—most aggressively, China—are trying to strengthen their claims on the much-contested territory.

As The New York Times reported last week, and as we’ve written over the past year, China is turning these tiny archipelagos into larger, infrastructure-supporting islands using a dredging technology that sucks sand from the ocean floor and distributes it via pipe to increase the seven islands’ landmass.