China ‘secretly places’ cruise missiles on islands in contested waters
Anti-ship and surface-to-air systems set-up on reclaimed land in South China Sea, reports say
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the US Navy. Photograph: US Navy handout via Reuters.
China is reported to have secretly installed anti-ship cruise missile and surface-to-air weapon systems on man-made islands in the South China Sea, boosting its military arsenal in the hotly contested area.
The CNBC network said, citing anonymous sources, that the missile systems were moved to the facilities, built on reefs near the Spratly Islands west of the Philippines, within the past 30 days.
China lays claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, through which about €4.75 trillion in trade passes every year, and it is in dispute with most of its neighbours in the region, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and self-ruled Taiwan, over the maritime territory.
Beijing has also dismissed a ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague rejecting its claim to the sea.
The missiles have reportedly been deployed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands. They include the YJ-12B, a land-based supersonic anti-ship cruise missile, which would allow China to hit vessels within 295 nautical miles of the reefs, and the HQ-9, a medium-to-long-range active radar homing surface-to-air missile that can strike aircraft, drones and cruise missiles within 160 nautical miles. It is similar to the US Patriot missile.
Similar weaponry has shown up in satellite images from Woody Island, China’s military base in the nearby Paracel Islands.
“We have consistently called on China, as well as other claimants, to refrain from further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and militarisation of disputed features, and to commit to managing and resolving disputes peacefully with other claimants,” an official from the Pentagon told CNBC.
“The further militarisation of outposts will only serve to raise tensions and create greater distrust among claimants,” the official said.
China’s military facilities on manmade islands near Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef contain deep-water ports, radar arrays, aircraft hangars, communication facilities, administration offices and runways long enough to support military aircraft.
In April, US admiral Philip Davidson, who has been nominated to head the US Pacific Command, said China had the capability to control the South China Sea “in all scenarios short of war with the United States. ”
“The only thing lacking are the deployed forces … China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania,” he said.