CHINA has reportedly installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three reefs claimed by the Philippines in disputed waters of the South China Sea.
The installation of the missiles has raised concerns by the United States and, if confirmed, would mark the first Chinese missile deployments in the Spratly islands, according to the Inquirer.
However, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying neither confirmed nor denied the deployment.
“China’s peaceful construction in the Spratly archipelago, including the deployment of necessary national defense facilities, is aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security,” Hua was quoted as saying.
“Those who don’t intend to violate [this sovereignty] have no reason to worry,” she said.
The Philippines’ presidential palace said it did not have confirmed reports on the missile deployment.
On Wednesday, US news network CNBC reported that China had installed the missile systems on three outposts in the South China Sea. It cited sources with direct knowledge of US intelligence.
Asked about the report, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a regular news briefing that the US was “well aware of China’s militarization of the South China Sea.
“We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this and there will be near-term and long-term consequences,” she said, as quoted by Reuters.
Sanders did not say what the consequences might be.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said US intelligence had seen some signs that China had moved some weapons systems to the Spratly Islands in the past month or so, but offered no details.
The sources said US intelligence assessments found the missiles were moved to Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands within the past 30 days.
Asian countries including Vietnam and Taiwan have rival claims over the Spratlys.
Julie Bishop, the foreign minister of US ally Australia, said the reports, if accurate, would be a concern as the actions would be contrary to China’s stated aspiration not to militarize the features.
“China, of course, has a unique responsibility as a permanent member of the Security Council, to uphold peace and security around the world,” Bishop told reporters in Queensland. “Any action to militarize unilaterally features in the South China Sea would go against that responsibility and that role.”
CNBC said the YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles allowed China to strike vessels within 295 nautical miles. It said the HQ-9B long-range, surface-to-air missiles could target aircraft, drones and cruise missiles within 160 nautical miles.