Thu, Feb 18, 2016 - Page 1 News List

China deploying missiles in Paracels

AGGRESSIVE TACTIC:IASC fellow Richard Fisher said the deployment on Woody Island was a major military escalation and that Beijing would likely do the same on other reefs

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON, with CNA

A Chinese HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launcher is pictured at the 2014 Airshow China in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province.

Photo: CNA

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.

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