China has laid claim to more land in disputed territory in South China Sea's Spratly islands than has previously been known, according to a report released by the Pentagon on Friday.
The report says China is also building a runway on one of the seven man made posts in the area which would potentially make it an alternative runway for aircraft carrier-based planes, allowing "sustained operations" in the area.
China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has been carrying out exercises in the South China Sea but according to experts is yet to be fully operational. Experts believe China will have deployable, domestically built aircraft carriers by 2020 as part of its development of an ocean-going "blue water" navy.
The Pentagon report entitled the "Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy" said that at the Spratly Island site, China had excavated deep channels and built new berthings for larger ships.
"The infrastructure China appears to be building would enable it to establish a more robust power projection presence into the South China Sea," read the report.
China has said the Spratly Island outposts will have undefined military purposes, as well as help with maritime search and rescue capabilities.
Although China claims most of the South China Sea, which is a major shipping route, Vietnam, The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia also have overlapping claims
China's reclamation efforts appear to have dwarfed those claims according to the Pentagon report.
China has reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months than the other claimants have over the last 40 years, accounting for 95 per cent of all the Spratly’s reclaimed land.
The report said "China is unilaterally altering the physical status quo in the region, thereby complicating diplomatic initiatives that could lower tensions."
U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, earlier this month accused China of restricting overflights and navigation. China denied the allegation.