While the Nimitz class carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, accompanied by the missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer head into the South China Sea, the Chinese are nearing completion on more than twenty structures on artificial islands in the waterway that appear to be designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).

China’s island building in the South China Sea has been called illegal by President Trump’s administration, as it demonstrates China’s efforts to lay claim to an expanse of ocean located between China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.  The South China Sea is not only of economic value, both for trade and natural resource purposes, but is also of great tactical importance.  As such, China (the nation boasting the most powerful military in the region) has claimed ownership of nearly the entire waterway, with overlapping claims coming from each of the other surrounding nations.

“It is not like the Chinese to build anything in the South China Sea just to build it, and these structures resemble others that house SAM batteries, so the logical conclusion is that’s what they are for,” said a U.S. intelligence official.

The structures are said to be more than sixty feet long and thirty feet high, resembling existing structures on the Chinese mainland that are used to house long-range missiles.  Retractable roofs installed on the tops of the structures would indicate that intelligence official’s assessments of the use for these buildings is likely correct.  The Chinese have already build military air strips on some of the islands as well.  There are not currently any missiles deployed on any of the man-made islands, but once completed, these buildings could effectively conceal their presence.