China is pursuing a strategy of expanding its military sphere of influence in the South China Sea to include strategic waypoints in the Paracel Islands. The Paracels are a disputed island group occupied by China, but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
In the Paracels, the Chinese have established a major presence on Woody Island and have built a 350-meter pier and a 2,600-meter airstrip, which is capable of handling all types of People's Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft. There are also oil tanks, gun emplacements and ammunition storage bunkers, which underline the perception that this island could be used as a staging point to support offensive operations in the Spratlys. There also reports of the existence of Silkworm antiship cruise missile installations on Woody Island. The Silkworm has a range of some fifty-nine miles and could be used to threaten nearby shipping traffic.
In mid-1995, a new Chinese signals intelligence (SIGINT) station was established on Rocky Island, just to the north of Woody Island. Rocky Island is one of the highest points in the area, and thus provides good coverage of military signal activity in this part of the South China Sea. This station could also support air or surface warning for air missions or ship targeting.