New satellite imagery out of an island in the South China Sea has revealed that the Chinese military has deployed a new airborne early warning and control plane to a key strategic location, Defense News reported Friday.
The Shaanxi KJ-500, a turboprop plane equipped with advanced radar, was spotted at Hainan Island’s Jialaishi Air Base in a March 24 satellite photograph by DigitalGlobe, a satellite imaging firm.
Two older airborne early warning turboprops were also spotted alongside the KJ-500, as well. The base typically houses fighters and fighter-bombers, which have occasionally been used to intercept American military planes in international airspace.
“This is the first time the KJ-500 has been deployed to Hainan, with China having previously rotationally deployed special mission aircraft detachments to the island,” Defense News reported. “These detachments are drawn from two special-mission aircraft regiments of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, based in northern China.”
The KJ-500 along with the satellite imagery
Earlier in the week, Defense News had reported that anti-ship missiles had been deployed to two sides of the strategic island just south of the Leizhou Peninsula in mainland China.
The beefing up of defenses in the South China Sea comes at a tense time in the relationship between the Trump administration and Xi Jinping’s Chinese regime.
The administration has been leaning on the Chinese to act in North Korea and has de-emphasized the conflict in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been attempting a land grab via increasingly-militarized man-made islands.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration was curtailing naval patrols in the disputed waters of Southeast Asia.
The appearance of the KJ-500 proves yet again that Xi’s regime is going to continue the increase in militarization for the foreseeable future. That’s bad news for the Trump administration — and for anyone who hopes to avert a crisis in one of the most hotly contested areas on earth.
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