During a recent trip to Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago, Thanh Nien documented China's illegal military and civilian construction projects in the Gac Ma (Johnson South) Reef.
The Gac Ma Reef (called the Chigua Reef by China), sits inside the Spratly island chain.
China seized the area on March 14, 1988 during a bloody naval assault that claimed the lives of 64 Vietnamese seamen.
From a distance of 4-5 nautical miles, one can easily spot Chinese ships dredging large volumes of sand and coral up from the sea floor and pumping them into the reef through giant pipes.
A temporary dyke was built to prevent erosion on the artificial island, where a tall building is being built. Potted coconut trees brought in from the mainland await planting around the reef.
What appears to be an air traffic control tower is clearly being built on the island.
Construction materials and equipment around Gac Ma Reef, which now contains a manmade island. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai
Work is underway on a multi-story building in Gac Ma Reef. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai
A temporary dyke has been built at the base of the multi-story building. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai
Cranes have been brought in to work on Gac Ma. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai
A Chinese frigate (left) posted to protect China’s illegal construction work on Gac Ma. Co Lin (Collins or Johnson North) Reef (right) was successfully defended by Vietnamese soldiers during a Chinese invasion on March 14, 1988. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai
A Chinese frigate patrols the illegal work site. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai
Co Lin Reef is much smaller than the area being bulked up with reclaimed sand in the Gac Ma Reef. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai
A Vietnamese ship approaching Gac Ma. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai
A Vietnamese ship nears China's recent construction in Gac Ma. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai
Gac Ma (Johnson South) Reef from a distance of 7-8 nautical miles. Photo: Mai Thanh Hai