The new estimate, disclosed for the first time, comes as the Pentagon released its annual report on China’s military power. The report warns that while Beijing’s island construction intent is unclear, five emerging outposts could be used for surveillance systems, harbors, an airfield and logistical support.
The wide-ranging report also details Chinese government-backed cyberattacks against the U.S. government to collect intelligence and steal high-tech data from defense programs to support China’s industry. And it warns that China now “boasts the most dynamic space program in the world today.”
The document also repeats persistent U.S. concerns about China’s growing capacity to project military power beyond its borders, with continued investments in new missiles, ships, and aircraft as well as cyber, space and electronic warfare.
For the first time, however, the report describes the “extensive” land reclamation at five outposts in the Spratly Islands, adding that at four of the sites the work has shifted to mainly development and construction. (Read more from “U.S. Official: Chinese Artificial Island Now Totals 2,000 Acres” HERE)