The Ministry of National Defense is keeping abreast of developments amid reports the Chinese military has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to Woody Island (Yongxing Island, 永興島) in the South China Sea, spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said yesterday.
The US broadcaster Fox News on Tuesday reported that satellite images from last week appear to show two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers, as well as a radar system, on Woody Island, one of the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島).
The Pentagon said the images of the buildup of missiles on the island — obtained from ImageSat International NV — were authentic.
Lo said the ministry has gathered information about the HQ-9 deployment and is closely watching developments.
All parties concerned in the South China Sea dispute should work together for peace and stability in the region, and avoid any unilateral action that could accelerate tension there, he said.
China’s deployment of the missiles on or about Sunday marks a major military escalation in the region and was a clear Chinese slap in the face in response to the US-ASEAN summit held in California on Monday and Tuesday, an expert on Beijing’s military affairs told the Taipei Times.
“It can now be expected that missiles will soon be deployed to Fiery Cross [Yongshu Reef, 永暑礁], Mischief [Meiji Reef, 美濟礁] and Subi reefs [Jhubi Reef, 渚碧礁],” said Richard Fisher, a senior fellow in Asian military affairs at the Alexandria, Virginia-based International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC). “As it is only 68km away from Subi Reef, the 150 to 200 kilometer range HQ-9 anti-aircraft missile can down any aircraft approaching Taiwan’s Taiping Island [Itu Aba Island, 太平島].”
Fisher said that should such a threat to Taiping materialize, Taiwan would be justified in deploying retaliatory systems to deter China from using its missiles.
“For Washington, deterrence will now depend on the crash development of new medium-range ballistic missiles and then their deployment to the Philippines or on US Navy ships so that there is a means for immediate retaliation should China use its new island bases to attack US allies and friends,” he said.
Fox News said that it had exclusively obtained civilian satellite imagery of the missiles on Woody Island and that a US official had confirmed the accuracy of the photographs.
“The official said the imagery viewed appears to show the HQ-9 air defense system, which closely resembles Russia’s S-300 missile system,” Fox News said.
“The US continues to call on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction and militarization of features in the South China Sea,” the official told Fox News.
The news channel also reported that a US Navy destroyer sailed close to another contested island in the Paracels a few weeks ago and that China vowed “consequences” for that action.
Woody Island is claimed by Taiwan, China and Vietnam.
The second day of Obama’s summit with ASEAN leaders at Sunnylands, California, focused on providing a united front on maritime disputes with Beijing.
The summit was already struggling with how to deal with images posted on The Diplomat magazine’s Web site showing China was continuing to expand its bases in the Paracels. Those photographs were said to show a helicopter base under construction.
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday night, summit attendees reaffirmed the key principals that would guide them in future, including mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, equality and political independence of all nations; shared commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to the threat or use of force; and a shared commitment to promote cooperation on challenges in the maritime domain.
The missile deployment also comes as Washington appears increasingly anxious that China might soon start flying war planes from the man-made islands it has built in the South China Sea. Such a move would increase the military threat against Taiwan and could trigger a new reaction from the US.
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said earlier this week that such flights would be “destabilizing.”
Aucoin would not say when he expected the flights to start, but other sources said they could happen before June.
Briefing journalists in Singapore, Aucoin said the US would continue to “sail, fly, operate throughout these waters like we have been doing for so long.”
Last month China landed two commercial jets on Fiery Cross, one of the reefs that China has built-up in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).
“It demonstrates this new base has at least a rudimentary capability to support brief visits by People’s Liberation Army [PLA] fighters, bombers, radar, anti-submarine and other military aircraft,” Fisher said.
China had enough transport aircraft to carry the radar and control systems, fuel, maintenance supplies plus ordinance to enable a small number of fighter or surveillance aircraft to perform combat air patrol missions from Fiery Cross, he said
“China will use US, Australian and Japanese intention to use aircraft and ships to demonstrate freedom of navigation rights to justify a more rapid buildup of combat capabilities on its three large bases at Fiery Cross, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef,” he said.
The PLA’s S-300PMU2 surface-to-air missile system could shoot down aircraft over most of the southern part of the South China Sea from the PLA’s three new bases in the region and shoot down aircraft flying over the Philippine island of Palawan from Mischief Reef.
“China is on a roll. It simply is not going to respond to diplomatic attempts to stop its accelerating transformation of its islands into military bases, which it will eventually use to attack Taiwan, Philippine and Vietnamese islands in the South China Sea," Fisher said.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did