A Washington-based think tank has gathered information based on new satellite imagery, which suggests that Chinese construction in Antarctica has resumed for the first time since 2018 on it’s fifth station in the southern polar region.
The report released by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) showed that China is making “significant progress” in Antarctica after a several years of gap in construction.
China wants to develop new shipping routes in the Arctic and further expand its research in Antarctica, and in doing so, it is not alone as countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Korea have research stations in the region.
But Western governments have raised concerns over China’s increasing presence in the polar regions, which could provide the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with better surveillance capabilities.
The CSIS said in its report that the new station, on Inexpressible Island near the Ross Sea, is expected to include an observatory with a satellite ground station.
Experts and analysts believe that the observatory should help China “fill in a major gap” in its ability to access the continent.
Satellite images taken in January helped the CSIS team to identify new support facilities, temporary buildings, a helicopter pad, and foundations for a larger main building at the 5,000 square metre station. The report suggests that the construction could be completed by 2024.
CSIS said, “While the station can provide tracking and communications for China’s growing array of scientific polar observation satellites, its equipment can concurrently be used for intercepting other nations’ satellite communications.”