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China denies building missile system in South China Sea

18th Feb 2016
China denies building missile system in South China Sea

By Mahmut Atanur, Kasim Ileri and Michael Hernandez

 

BEIJING (AA) – China on Wednesday denied widely-reported allegations that it has deployed an anti-air missile system to a disputed island chain in the South China Sea.

Following a meeting with Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi denied a reporter’s suggestion that Beijing had constructed a missile system on Woody Island in the Paracel chain.

“Western media is lying” he said, urging “foreign press” to instead focus on “China providing public services” in the region.

“China is the flagship country that provides infrastructural services in the South China Sea,” he said.

Later Wednesday, a U.S. defense official declined to comment on China’s denial, but noted that a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman had asserted that Beijing has the right to build up defense systems on islands it claims.

“Our stance continues to be the same. We’re very concerned about their actions in the South China Sea, which we find destabilizing — both reclaiming land and now militarizing those positions,” the official told Anadolu Agency on customary condition of anonymity.

He confirmed that the U.S. had seen indications that China is putting surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island.

China has raised tensions with the U.S. and its neighbors by embarking on construction of man-made islands and airstrips on the Paracels, which are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The Paracels themselves are part of a group of reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands that China refers to as the Nanshas, but others call them Spratlys.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called on all claimants to practice a policy of “no militarization” in the waters, noting that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s had said during a visit last year to Washington that China would not militarize the South China Sea.

“But there is every evidence every day that there has been an increase of militarization of one kind or another. It’s of serious concern … we’ve had these conversations with the Chinese, and I’m confident that over the next days we will have further, very serious conversation on this.”

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest maintained that Washington’s interest in the region is the “continued free flow of commerce in this region of the world.”

“At the same time, the United States military has undertaken operations to indicate our view and to I think, in pretty stark terms, make clear our view that we intend to continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere that international law allows,” spokesman Josh Earnest said. “And our commitment to that principle is quite firm.”

Since October, two U.S. warships have sailed close to Chinese claimed features in “freedom-of-navigation operations” that Beijing has called “provocative”.

Among claimants of other islands in the Spratly chain are the Philippines, which has taken the quarrel over ownership of the islands – which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea — to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in The Hague. China has asserted that the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the sea dispute, and has refused to participate in its hearings.

*Anadolu Agency correspondent Satuk Bugra Kutlugun contributed to this story from Ankara.

 

[Photo: Map of Paracel Islands and Triton Island in China Sea. Photgraph: CIA image/Wikimedia]

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