MANILA - China is reportedly considering plans to expand its biggest installation in the Spratly islands into an artificial island, complete with airstrip and sea port.
The South China Morning Post reports the island would be constructed on the Fiery Cross Reef, known in the Philippines as Kagitingan Reef.
Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Beijing's Renmin University, said the proposal has already been submitted to China's central government.
He said the artificial island would be at least double the size of the US military base of Diego Garcia, a 44-square-kilometer American military base in the Indian Ocean.
Analysts say China's move indicates a shift from defense to offense in the East and South China Seas.
It is also seen as a step to the declaration of an air defense identification zone.
Analysts warned reclamation at the Fiery Cross Atoll, which is claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam, would further strain Beijing's relations with neighbors.
ANC HEADSTART, June 9, 2014