Philippine military officials reported on 25 July an “increase in Chinese naval traffic near Pag-Asa [Thitu] island” in the disputed Spratly Islands.
Senior military sources in Manila told IHS Jane’s that “two People’s Liberation Army naval frigates” and about two dozen Chinese fishing vessels and fisheries patrol craft had congregated about 5 n miles from Pag-Asa Island.
On 24 July a Philippine Navy Britten-Norman B2N Islander aircraft spotted a Type 72-II (Yuting)-class tank landing ship (LST) with the hull number 934 near Subi Reef. Several smaller vessels, described as fast craft about 15 m long, have also been seen in the area.
China has built a radar station, five small buildings and a lighthouse on Subi Reef. It is about 12 n miles from Pag-Asa island, which has also been known as Kalayaan, Palawan province, since its creation by Manila in 1978. Kalayaan has a population of about 1,000 civilians as well as government security forces, the exact number of which is classified.
Pag-Asa residents and fishermen say the LST’s lights are visible at night from the island and that it is offloading supplies.
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