Fiery Cross Reef

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Fiery Cross Reef
Disputed island
Other names:
Northwest Investigator Reef
Yongshu Reef
Kagitingan Reef
Đá Chữ Thập
Fiery Cross Reef LANDSAT 2000.jpg
LANDSAT 7 image from April 2000
Location of Fiery Cross Reef
Location of Fiery Cross Reef
Location South China Sea
Coordinates 9°32′57″N 112°53′21″E / 9.54917°N 112.88917°E / 9.54917; 112.88917Coordinates: 9°32′57″N 112°53′21″E / 9.54917°N 112.88917°E / 9.54917; 112.88917
Archipelago Spratly Islands
Area Natural: 0 ha
Reclaimed: 230 ha[citation needed]
Administered by
People's Republic of China
Claimed by
People's Republic of China

Fiery Cross Reef, also known as "Northwest Investigator Reef", Yongshu Island (永暑岛) or Yongshu Reef (永暑礁) by the Chinese,[1] "Kagitingan Reef" by the Filipnos,[2] and "Đá Chữ Thập" by the Vietnamese, was a group of three reefs on the western edge of Dangerous Ground in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea. The area is controlled by China (as part of Sansha[3]) and is also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The reef was named after the Fiery Cross, a British Tea Clipper lost there on 4 March 1860 (later its more famous sister ship took the same name), and was surveyed by Lieutenant J. W. Reed of the HMS Rifleman, who discovered it to be one extensive reef in 1867, and had found there the apparent wrecks of the Fiery Cross and the Meerschaum.[4]

Fiery Cross Reef has been occupied by China since 1988 when a UNESCO Marine observation station was built there.[citation needed] In 2014, China commenced reclamation activity in the area, and it has been converted into an artificial island of about 230ha.[citation needed] There were around 200 Chinese troops on the reef in late 2014,[5] though this number is likely to have increased significantly in 2015 with the addition of support personnel for the new airbase (including 3,125 m-long runway) [6] and associated early warning radar site.[citation needed]

Weather Station[edit]

In 1987, following a UNESCO meeting in March, it was agreed that the PRC would build weather stations in the South China sea as part of a global oceanic survey.[7] In April 1987, the PRC chose to build a weather station on Fiery Cross reef as the reef was large enough for the purpose, and it was isolated from other disputed islands and reefs.[8] However, this caused further skirmishes with Vietnam when, in January 1988, some Vietnamese ships with construction materials tried to approach the reef in a bid to construct Vietnamese structures.

The weather station was commissioned by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission(IOC). Construction was commenced in February 1988 and completed in August 1988.[9]

Land reclamation[edit]

Main article: Great wall of sand

During 2014 the PRC government commenced reclamation activities to construct a large artificial island to support an airstrip and seaport.[10][11][12] Despite the fact that the PRC has a 3000m runway in the Paracel Islands, a Hong Kong-based newspaper[which?] stated that China has been at a "distinct disadvantage" compared with other claimants in the Spratly Islands as it is the only claimant that doesn't have an island hosting an airfield.

Taiwan has Taiping Island (Itu Aba), the Philippines has Thitu (Pagasa) island, Malaysia has Swallow Reef (a reef on which it reclaimed land and built an airstrip) and, the article incorrectly claims, Vietnam has Southwest Cay.[13] Vietnam does, however, have an airstrip on Spratly Island.[14]


  1. ^ "从永暑礁到永暑岛 (From Yongshu Reef to Yongshu Island)" (in Chinese). Tencent News. 2014-10-24. Retrieved 2014-12-14. 
  2. ^ DJ Sta. Ana, News5 (2011-05-24). "China builds more Spratly outposts". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  3. ^ Joe Burgess (2012-05-31). "Territorial Claims in South China Sea". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  4. ^ Findlay, Alexander George (1878). A Directory for the Navigation of the Indian Archipelago, China, and Japan (2nd ed.). London: Richard Holmes Laurie. p. 625. 
  5. ^ DJ Sta. Ana, The Philippine Star (13 June 2014). "China reclaiming land in 5 reefs?". Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "China completes runway on Fiery Cross Reef". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Lee, Lai To (1999). China sea and South China sea dialogues. Greenwood Publishing group. ISBN 0275966356. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Koo, Min Gyo (2010). Island Disputes and Maritime Regime Building in East Asia. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 1441962239. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Boothroyd, Adrienne. "OWN-ING THE ISLANDS: CHINA'S MOVE INTO THE SOUTH CHINA SEA A STUDY OF CHINESE FOREIGN POLICY" (PDF). Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  10. ^ Hardy, James; O'Connor, Sean (20 November 2014). "China building airstrip-capable island on Fiery Cross Reef". IHS Janes Defence Weekly (IHS). IHS Janes 360. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Hardy, James; O'Connor, Sean (16 April 2015). "China's first runway in Spratlys under construction". IHS Jane's 360. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "China building runway in disputed South China Sea island". BBC. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Kristine Kwok and Minnie Chan (2014-06-08). "China plans artificial island in disputed Spratlys chain in South China Sea". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2014-09-28. 
    Note that, other than this quoted article, there is no supporting evidence that there is an airstrip on Southwest Cay.
  14. ^ (Vietnamese)