A report says China has begun work on a new airstrip on an artificially created island in a disputed section of the South China Sea.

IHS Jane's says satellite images of Fiery Cross Reef taken March 23 show a runway more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) long as well as paved sections of apron. The U.S. says China is carrying out eight such land reclamation projects in the area.

Jane's says the island is already big enough for a runway 3,000 meters (9,500 feet) long that would be able to accommodate air force planes.

The airfield construction also was mentioned by the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific at a congressional hearing on Wednesday. Adm. Samuel Locklear said the reclamation work would allow China to exert more influence in the contested region.