WASHINGTON — Newly released satellite images show that China has deployed at least four fighter jets on one of the key contested islands in the South China Sea, refocusing attention on the critical area one week ahead of a meeting between President Trump and his Chinese counterpart.
The images were snapped on Wednesday and show four J-10 fighters on Woody Island. It is the first time in roughly two years fighters have been captured by photos on the contested islands, according to ImageSat International, a private Israeli intelligence entity who took and released the photos.
Woody Island is one of the Paracel Islands where China has made significant enhancements to establish a military presence. The Paracel Islands are claimed by several nations.
The photos, first reported by CNN, were released as China sent its lone aircraft carrier along with other vessels on a patrol around the South China Sea, according to news reports.
“It is not the first time they have placed fighter jets on that island,” Col. David Eastburh, a Pentagon spokesperson, told TMN Friday.
Trump is to meet Chinese President Xi next week at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. The growing trade war between Washington and Beijing is atop the discussion list.
Woody Island has been occupied by Chinese troops since they pushed off Vietnamese troops in 1974. The airfield has 20 hangers and the jets were parked in the open on runways.