Fiery Cross Reef
Other names: Northwest Investigator Reef / Yongshu Reef / Kagitingan Reef / Đá Chữ Thập
Satellite image from 2000m
|Location||South China Sea|
|Area||Natural: 0 ha
Reclaimed: 274 ha
|People's Republic of China|
|People's Republic of China|
|Republic of the Philippines|
Fiery Cross Reef, also known as "Northwest Investigator Reef", "Yongshu Reef" (永暑礁) by the Chinese, "Kagitingan Reef" by the Filipinos, and "Đá Chữ Thập" by the Vietnamese was, prior to large scale reclamation activities by the PRC, a group of three reefs just west of the western edge of Dangerous Ground in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea. The area is occupied and controlled by China (PRC) as part of Sansha and is also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan (ROC) 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). The reef was surveyed by Lieutenant J. W. Reed of the HMS Rifleman, who reported it to be one extensive reef in 1867, and found the apparent wrecks of the Fiery Cross and the Meerschaum.
It was occupied by the PRC in 1988 when they built a UNESCO Marine observation station there, despite immediate opposition from Vietnam leading to armed conflict in March of that year. In 2014 the PRC commenced reclamation activity in the area, and it has been converted into an artificial island of 274 hectares (680 acres). There were around 200 Chinese troops on the reef in late 2014, though this number was likely to have increased significantly in 2015 with the addition of support personnel for the new airbase (including 3,125 m-long runway)  and associated early warning radar site.
On 12 July 2016, the tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration concluded that Fiery Cross Reef contains, within the meaning of Article 121(1) of the Convention, naturally formed areas of land, surrounded by water, which are above water at high tide. However, for purposes of Article 121(3) of the Convention, the high-tide features at Fiery Cross Reef are rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own and accordingly shall be entitled to 12nm of territorial sea measured from its baseline but have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.
GLOSS sea level monitoring station
In 1987, following a UNESCO (IOC/UNESCO) meeting in March, it was agreed that the PRC would build weather stations in the South China sea as part of the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) survey. The scientists from Global Sea Level Observing System agreed that China would install tide gauges on what it considered to be its coasts in the East China Sea and on the "Nansha islands" in South China Sea. The scientists were unaware of regional political disputes, including Taiwanese territorial claims to one of the Spratly islands.
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. 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 establish structures there.
During 2014 the PRC government began reclamation activities to construct a large artificial island to support an approximately 3,300 metres (10,800 ft) airstrip, seaport and military garrison.
Although the PRC has a 3,000-metre (9,800 ft) runway in the Paracel Islands, it claims it had been at a disadvantage compared with other claimants of areas of the South China Sea as it was the only claimant that did not have an airfield in the Spratly Islands. Since 2014 the PRC has reclaimed land on seven reefs in the Spratly Islands, and built three runways. The runway on Fiery Cross was completed in January 2016, and is the southernmost of the three, (the others being at Mischief Reef and Subi Reef). The PRC test-landed two civilian aircraft there in January 2016, one from China Southern Airlines and the other from Hainan Airlines.
The People’s Liberation Army Daily reported that a Chinese military jet had made a public landing there in April 2016. It has been asserted that other PRC military aircraft, including jet fighters, have been observed there since April 2016.
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