• Reuters

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A Chinese website has published photographs from one of the reefs under China’s control in the disputed South China Sea showing female sailors posing on ocean break walls, vegetable gardens being watered and even pigs in a pen.

The slide show of 17 photographs from Fiery Cross Reef shows how quickly China is developing facilities to support its troops on the newly formed island following major land reclamation.

Sina, one of China’s biggest web portals, put the slide show online under the headline “Gratifying results on China’s Yongshu Reef: building vegetable greenhouses (and) growing fruit trees.”

Fiery Cross is among seven Chinese-held reefs in the Spratly chain of the South China Sea that are being transformed into artificial islands despite alarm from other claimants to the strategic waterway and growing criticism from Washington.

Sina did not say when the pictures were taken or by whom, although they appear to have been taken from various other websites, including state radio and at least one celebrity gossip site. The pictures had no captions.

In one photograph, six female sailors in camouflage uniforms pose on a break wall with a greenhouse in the background. Another picture shows a female sailor — or officer, it is not clear — standing by a stone plinth reading, “Awe-inspiring South China Sea.”

The greenhouse is a particular focus of the slide show, with its eggplants and tomato plants growing in neat lines. A dozen plump pigs in a sty appear in one photo.

What is not shown are the reef’s military facilities, such as a 3,000-meter (10,000-foot) runway and airborne early warning radar systems that are visible on commercial satellite images.

Neither is there any sign of dredgers or other equipment being used to reclaim land.

China said this past week that some of its reclamation work in the Spratlys would be completed soon but that it would continue to build facilities.

It says the outposts will have undefined military purposes as well as help with maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, environmental protection and navigation.

There have been recent tensions between the Chinese Navy and the U.S. military around the Spratlys.