South China Sea crisis: How Beijing is using tracker airships to monitor US military | World | News

Satellite imagery obtained by ImageSat shows China, seemingly in an effort to defend the contested Spratly Islands from opposing militaries, has deployed light airships to monitor the surrounding waters. The airships were pictured floating above the Mischief reef, forming one of the central areas of political grappling in the Spratly Islands.

The use of these ships has the capacity to provide numerous advantages to China in the region, as their low cost surveillance can alert Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army to foreign presence in the region.

While the airship has been sighted in the South China Sea, much about its capabilities remain unknown, such as the type of sensor it carries.

This represents a big response to US actions in the region, as Washington has also deployed similar devices in areas surrounding waters in the Carribean and southern US.

Last month, the US sent warships into the region as a statement of intent as President Trump comes to the aid of nations disputing China’s Nine Dash-Line claim.

It is also referred to by some as the ’10-dash line’ or ’11-dash line’, and serves as a demarcation for what Beijing believe to be their waters.

As the map shows, the U-shaped marking essentially siphons off the large central part of the sea.

An early map showing a U-shaped 11-dash line was published in the then-Republic of China on 1 November 1947.

READ MORE: South China Sea chaos: China accused of ramping up tensions

In 1988, 64 Vietnamese soldiers were killed in a conflict with China over the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea.

In 2014, there was a standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese military, as a Chinese oil rig entered disputed waters where Vietnam had also contested for ownership.

Just last month, a Chinese oil vessel departed Vietnam’s economic exclusion zone after a three-month standoff.

However, this prompted the US to send a patrol ship to Vietnam last week as Washington continues to try and thwart China’s attempts to dominate its Asian neighbours.

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