China has fully militarized at least three of several islands it built up in the disputed South China Sea, arming them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment, and fighter jets in an increasingly aggressive move that threatens all nations operating nearby, a top US military commander said on Sunday.
US Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral John Aquilino said that the hostile actions were in stark contrast to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) past assurances that Beijing would not transform the artificially enlarged islands in contested waters into military bases.
The efforts were the flexing of military muscle by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), he said.
“I think over the past 20 years we’ve witnessed the largest military buildup since World War II by the PRC,” Aquilino told The Associated Press (AP) in an interview.
“They have advanced all their capabilities and that buildup of weaponization is destabilizing to the region,” Aquilino said.
There were no immediate comments from Chinese officials.
Beijing maintains its military profile is purely defensive, arranged to protect what it says are its sovereign rights.
Aquilino spoke with the AP onboard a US Navy reconnaissance aircraft that flew near Chinese-held outposts in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), one of the most hotly contested regions in the world.
During the patrol, the P-8A Poseidon plane was repeatedly warned by Chinese callers that it had illegally entered what they said was China’s territory and ordered the plane to move away.
However, the US Navy plane dismissed the multiple warnings and pressed on defiantly with its reconnaissance in brief but tense moments witnessed by two AP journalists invited onboard.
“I am a sovereign, immune United States naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state,” the US pilot radioed back to the Chinese.
Aquilino said the construction of missile arsenals, aircraft hangars, radar systems and other military facilities on Mischief Reef (Meiji Reef, 美濟礁), Subi Reef (Jhubi Reef, 渚碧礁) and Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑島) appeared to have been completed, but it remains to be seen whether China will pursue the construction of military infrastructure in other areas.
“The function of those islands is to expand the offensive capability of the PRC beyond their continental shores,” he said. “They can fly fighters, bombers plus all those offensive capabilities of missile systems.”
Washington’s main objective in the disputed region is “to prevent war” through deterrence, and promote peace and stability, including by engaging US allies and partners in projects with that objective, Aquilino said.
“Should deterrence fail, my second mission is to be prepared to fight and win,” said Aquilino, who leads the largest US combatant command with 380,000 military and civilian personnel covering 36 nations and territories.
WHEELING AND DEALING? Hou You-yi, Ko Wen-je, Eric Chu and Ma Ying-jeou are under investigation for allegedly offering bribes for the other side to drop out of the race Taipei prosecutors have started an investigation into allegations that four top politicians involved in attempts to form a “blue-white” presidential ticket have contravened election regulations. Listed as defendants are Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). The case stemmed from judicial complaints filed last month with the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office alleging that the KMT (blue) and the TPP (white) had engaged in bribery by offering money or other enticements
ELIGIBLE FOR JANUARY: All presidential candidates and their running mates meet the requirements to run for office, and none hold dual citizenship, the CEC said Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Legislator and vice presidential candidate Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈) is working with the Central Election Commission (CEC) to resolve issues with her financial disclosure statement, a spokesman for the candidate said yesterday, after the commission published the statements of all three presidential candidates and their running mates, while confirming their eligibility to run in the Jan. 13 election. Wu’s office spokesman, Chen Yu-cheng (陳宥丞), said the candidate encountered unforeseen difficulties disclosing her husband’s finances due to being suddenly thrust into the campaign. She is also the first vice presidential nominee to have a foreign spouse, complicating the reporting of
GOOD NEWS: Although open civic spaces are shrinking in Asia-Pacific countries and territories, Taiwan’s openness is a positive sign, an expert said Taiwan remains the only country in Asia with an “open” civic space for the fifth consecutive year, the Civicus Monitor said in a report released yesterday. The People Power Under Attack 2023 report named Taiwan as one of only 37 open countries or territories out of 198 globally, and the only one in Asia. Compiled by Civicus — a global alliance of civil society organizations dedicated to bolstering civil action — the ranking compiled annually since 2017 measures the state of freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression around the world. Researchers assign each country or territory one of five rankings describing the
NOT JUST CHIPS: Although semiconductor processes are on the list, it also includes military technology and post-quantum cryptography to combat emerging cyberthreats The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) yesterday released a list of 22 technologies it considers crucial to the nation’s security and competitiveness, including the 14-nanometer semiconductor process and advanced chip packaging. For the first time, the council made a list of core technologies with an aim of preventing secret information about those technologies being leaked to foreign countries, which could put the nation’s security and the competitiveness of local industries at risk. For years, local semiconductor companies have faced challenges from talent poaching and theft of corporate secrets by Chinese competitors, who are seeking to rapidly advance their technology capabilities through