Last update: May 01, 2023, 11:15 p.m. HST
The causeway at the southern end of Great Coco Island can be seen under construction on Great Coco Island. (Credits: Maxar Technologies via chathamhouse.org)
New satellite images from March 2023 show evidence of land clearing efforts in the southern part of Coco Island indicating more construction work
China is involved in expanding an airstrip, aircraft hangar and military modernization in Myanmar’s Great Coco Islands, located near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, according to a report.
The small, remote island in the Bay of Bengal has been a focus of China’s interests since the 1990s, where it is believed to have built an intelligence facility, The Guardian said citing Chatham House.
Satellite images of the island taken in January this year show signs of military modernization, a recently extended 2,300 meter runway, a radar station and two new hangars.
Additionally, new images from March show evidence of clearing efforts on the southern tip of the island, indicating the likelihood of more construction work.
Reports indicate that Chinese engineers and military personnel have been spotted on the islands in recent years.
Although Great Coco Island is relatively small at around 11km in length, its location is strategically important. It is not only close to the Strait of Malacca, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, but also close to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, home to Indian Navy and Air Force bases. .
The Chinese move to the island has raised concerns that Beijing could leverage intelligence gathering, through spying and intelligence sharing.
Although the footage showed no specific evidence of Chinese activity on the island of Myanmar, Myanmar has sought closer ties with Beijing and backed its claims on Taiwan.
Myanmar has become increasingly dependent on Beijing after the February 2021 coup, where the military junta took over the nation. Myanmar’s military has sought closer ties with Beijing and backed its claim to Taiwan and announced support for China’s “global security initiative”.
India has been closely monitoring infrastructure developments and clashing with Myanmar after intelligence showed Beijing was helping to build a monitoring post on the island, according to Bloomberg. However, China denied the allegations.
The developments in the Coco Islands came amid the rise of Chinese spy ships and survey vessels in the Bay of Bengal and proposed radars in southern Sri Lanka.
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