No one knows what these hexagonal structures the Chinese keep building in the South China Sea are for

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Unidentified hexagonal structures at Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief reefs.
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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

WASHINGTON, DC – Experts still aren’t quite sure what these mysterious hexagonal facilities in the South China Sea are.

In August, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a unit of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, published satellite imagery of several unidentified hexagonal structures on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief reefs.

“I’m afraid we still don’t know for sure what the structures are, beyond saying that they appear defensive in nature,” Gregory Poling, director of AMTI, told Business Insider about the hexagonal designs.

Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at CSIS, echoed Poling, telling Business Insider, “there has been some speculation that they might be SAM sites.”

The formations are always oriented toward the sea and started to appear in May, according to experts at AMTI.

It has been a little over five months since the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated Beijing’s vast territorial claims in the South China Sea. All the while, Beijing has maintained the ruling has no bearing and continues to build in the region.

All photos republished with permission from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Subi Reef

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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe

China began working on Subi Reef in July 2014 and has since reclaimed 3,950,000 square meters of land. Currently, Subi Reef remains China’s northernmost outpost in the Spratly Island chain.

Read more about Subi Reef »


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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

Mischief Reef

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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe

Perhaps the most significant portion of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 12 500-page unanimous ruling on the South China Sea is the decision on Mischief Reef. According to the ruling, the reef and everything on it legally belongs to the Philippines.

This is in spite of China’s reclamation of approximately 5,580,000 square meters of land and the construction of a 9,800-foot runway, radar nests, and what some experts have speculated is a soon-to-be naval base.

“The court ruled China’s initial occupation of Mischief Reef and its construction of facilities there illegal, so every day that China continues to make use of those facilities it is violating international law,” Poling told Business Insider in a previous interview.

Read more about Mischief Reef »


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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

Fiery Cross Reef

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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe

Meanwhile on Fiery Cross Reef, China has reclaimed approximately 2,740,000 square meters of land, and it constructed a 9,800-foot runway, a dredged harbor that is large enough to receive tankers and major surface combat ships, and a possible radar tower.

Read more about Fiery Cross Reef »


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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

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CSIS/AMTI/Digital Globe/Amanda Macias/Business Insider

Head over to Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative to view more satellite imagery »