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Stunning Aerial Photos Show Extent Of China's Developments In The South China Sea

Buildings, runways and fields dot "reclaimed" islands.

16/11/2016 11:31 AM AEDT | Updated 16/11/2016 7:38 PM AEDT
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Overview of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea. Fiery Cross is located in the western part of the Spratly Islands group.

Stunning new aerial photographs have revealed the advances China has made "reclaiming" unpopulated islands and atolls in the disputed South China Sea.

China's claim to the patch of sea -- marked by a vague nine dash line -- has sparked ongoing tensions with countries in the region, as well as the U.S.

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Closeup imagery of one of the Cuarteron Reef, located at the east end of the London Reefs in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea.
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Overview of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea. Fiery Cross is in the western part of the Spratly Islands group.
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A closeup of the Fiery Cross Reef shows a long runway.

The South China Sea is a major trading seaway that sees trillions of dollars worth of goods pass through it each year.

China has been "reclaiming" unpopulated islands and atolls since 2014, adding buildings and other infrastructure, including runways.

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One of the Gaven Reefs, found in the Tizard Bank of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
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One of the Hughes Reefs. The Hughes Reef is located in the Union banks area within the Spratly group of islands.

In October a U.S. navy warship sailed near islands claimed by China in an attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur challenged "excessive maritime claims" near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbours, U.S. officials told Reuters.

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Johnson South Reef. It is also known as Chigua Reef, Yongshu Reef, Gc Ma Reef and Mabini Reef and is located in the southwest portion of Union Banks, in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea.

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The Subi Reef in the South China Sea, a part of the Spratly Islands group.
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A closeup of the Subi Reef in the South China Sea, a part of the Spratly Islands group
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Another closeup of the Subi Reef in the South China Sea.

China this week said tensions in the South China Sea have eased because of "friendly cooperation" with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.

James Woolsey, a former CIA director under president Bill Clinton and an advisor to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, has said the U.S. won't abandon its Asian allies to China's "overreach."

"The U.S. sees itself as the holder of the balance of power in Asia and is likely to remain quite determined to protect its allies against Chinese overreach," he wrote in the South China Post last week.

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The Subi Reef in the South China Sea is now home to numerous buildings.
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A closeup of one of the Hughes Reefs in the Union banks area within the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea.

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