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SOUTH CHINA SEA ISLANDS ESCALATION – China Positions Surface To Air Defense
China has deployed surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea, according to Taiwan and U.S. officials, in a move that has alarmed the country’s Asian neighbors.
Chinese state media said defenses had been in place on Woody Island, part of the Paracel chain in the hotly disputed sea, for years, and denied it was militarizing the island.
Satellite images taken on February 14 appeared to show several missile batteries and support vehicles, according to ImageSat International, which took the images.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday it had confirmed that surface-to-air had been deployed. U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CNN that commercial satellite imagery showed the deployment of batteries.
China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea has “increased tensions” in the region, south-east Asian foreign ministers said at the close of talks dominated by Beijing’s island-building.
The declaration, contained in a final communique, followed a warning by US secretary of state John Kerry that Washington would not tolerate any restrictions on freedom of navigation in the strategically important waters.
The south-east Asian ministers’ joint final statement noted “the serious concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations in the South China Sea”.
Asean talks: US and Philippines to defy China and raise South China Sea dispute
It said the land works “have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea” – but without specifically singling out Beijing.
The communique was hashed out after two days of wrangling over how hard to pressure China on its controversial drive to expand tiny reefs and build military posts in the disputed waters.
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In a statement released just before midnight on Thursday, China’s foreign ministry accused the Philippines foreign minister of teaming up with his Japanese counterpart to “attack” China’s South China Sea policy.
“First off, the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, and there is no possibility of a major clash,” the statement cited Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi as telling the forum, which was attended by foreign ministers from around the region. Mr. Kerry added: “What’s really needed, though, is an agreement to stop not just the reclamation, but the large-scale construction and militarization. We’ve put forward a proposal that people stop all three.”
Only one week prior, the US also engaged in games with Japan and Australia in the Northern Territory and Queensland. China has been building artificial islands in the Spratlys — which are also known as the Nansha Islands.