China is building a concrete runway capable of receiving military fighter jets and surveillance planes on a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea, newly released satellite images show.

A runway almost 10,000ft long is being built on Fiery Cross Reef, photographs released by IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly suggest.

The reef is part of the Spratly island chain, one of the largest such formations in the South China Sea and one where China, the Philippines and Vietnam have overlapping claims.

“This is a major strategic event,” Peter Dutton, a professor of strategic studies at the America’s Naval War College, said of the runway project.

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