China is building a new helicopter base in Fujian province that could threaten Taiwan
China is building a new helicopter base in Fujian province that could threaten Taiwan, a Taiwanese military expert said citing satellite imagery.
Ho Cheng-hui was cited by the Taiwan news website pourquoi.tw as saying the base had not been previously reported. He added it could be regarded as a product of Xi Jinping’s “desperate desire to resolve the Taiwan issue and expand the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) combat power.”
Ho suggested the base was yet another challenge to the existing international order and is intended to disrupt the United States‘ first island chain defences and “even directly challenge the U.S. military.” He said the site could accommodate many military aircraft, Taiwan News reported.
The satellite imagery was posted by an open-source intelligence analyst on Twitter who goes by the handle @detresfa. On Thursday (March 11) he posted two satellite maps that he described as a “new heliport” in Zhangpu County, Fujian Province.
In a black and white photo on the left, an oblong apron and runway can be clearly seen, covering what he estimates is 1,700 meters, as well as an area for administrative buildings.
A colour, close-up photo on the right appears to show 10 helipads, a runway, and at least three helicopters already positioned on the tarmac. He estimates the runway is 600 meters in length and counts 27 hangars for aircraft.
The open-source intelligence analyst told Taiwan News that based on his observations, work on the facility started in July 2019, which consisted of clearing vegetation and earth moving.
He suggested that given its strategic location, it could enhance both army and navy operations and allow for easier surveillance of the Taiwan Strait.
Military expert Ho Cheng-hui said that in addition to the base’s helicopters, the estimated runway length would be sufficient for fighter aircraft to take off and patrol the waters and airspace off southwest Taiwan and the Dongsha Islands. “These all constitute a threat and provide pressure,” Ho said.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.
Taipei, on the other hand, has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing.
In recent months, China has increased its military activities around Taiwan. According to China, it is responding to what it calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington, Taiwan’s main international backer and weapons supplier, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has already made his intentions clear about Taiwan as he has vowed to never allow the island to become independent and has refused to rule out the use of force if necessary.