A Chinese province’s plan to launch 10 satellites over a widely disputed sea starting next year will help guide China to prime natural resources and enable fast reaction to any foreign ship movement, boosting China’s lead over five other Asian governments, this according to a report authored by Ralph Jennings at the Voice of America infosite.
The island province of Hainan’s Sanyan Institute of Remote Sensing intends to launch the satellites from 2019 to 2021, the official Xinhua News Agency reported in December. The launches, it says, will help with “remote sensing coverage” over the contested South China Sea and pick up images “round-the-clock.”
China ultimately hopes to find prime fisheries in the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea before someone else does, analysts say. It also may use the satellites to spot and quickly follow up whatever other countries do at sea, they suggest. Help for the military looms as another possibility. China claims about 90 percent of the sea based on historical records.
“Probably it wants to make sure that they have so-called situation awareness in the region or better situation awareness,” said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan. “They can monitor the activities of fishing transportation, energy transportation or even military activities.”
Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines claim parts of the South China Sea, pitting them against China. The Southeast Asian countries have grown warier of China, the most technologically and militarily advanced claimant, since 2010 as it steps up land reclamation of small islets for defense purposes.
Of the satellites to be deployed from Hainan province, six are optical satellites that would use light in free space to send data wirelessly to telecommunication or computer networks. Two are hyperspectral satellites, which can analyze each pixel in a complex image to find objects or detect processes. The last two are synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellites that normally can compose three-dimensional images of landscapes.
India planned in 2016 to offer Vietnam a imaging facility that would allow access to pictures from Indian observation satellites. Experts say the other South China Sea claimants have nothing that approximates China’s plan.
China already leads other claimants in maritime technology. Over the past year, it has rolled out a large deep-sea dredging vessel useful for land reclamation and put the final touches on a bathyscaphe deep ocean probe. Chinese scientists are working separately on an underwater observation network for the sea where the Southeast Asian claimants are exploring for oil and natural gas reserves.