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Taiwan Asks Google to Blur Military Facilities on Disputed Island Itu Aba: Reuters

Is China Militarizing in the South China Sea? 0:36

Taiwan has reportedly asked Google to blur satellite images showing what appear to be new military facilities on a disputed island also claimed by its arch-rival China.

"Under the precondition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities," Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi told reporters Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Image: Itu Aba
A satellite image showing apparently new military structures on Itu Aba, also known as Taiping Island, in the South China Sea. Google

Taiwan has controlled 800-meter-long Itu Aba island, which it calls Taiping, since the 1950s. Like much of the hotly contested South China Sea, the island is also claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Taiwan's request came after the South China Morning Post on Tuesday pointed out four new star-shaped structures that were not present on Google Earth images from January.

NBC News was not able to reach Taiwan's defense ministry to find out what the structures were. Google did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

"I cannot tell if [the facility] is for defending, attacking or monitoring," Dustin Wang, a former Taiwanese government adviser, told Reuters.

Image: Itu Aba
A satellite image showing apparently new military structures on Itu Aba, also known as Taiping Island, in the South China Sea. Google

In recent years China has embarked on a massive construction program in the South China Sea.

Taiwan's request to Google would help to "ratchet up the tension," according to James Edward Hoare, associate fellow at London's Chatham House think tank.

But he and others were puzzled by the request to Google, saying it would not stop surveillance by other nations with interests in the South China Sea.

"It's hard to see what they're trying to achieve in asking Google to blur it though," Hoare added. "If you build a military installation on an island that size, someone is going to see it."

Bill Hayton, another associate fellow at Chatham House, added: "The Taiwan request seems a bit absurd. It's not going to stop military satellites — or even civilian ones under contract from governments — from taking pictures."