Missile hype to 'fuel tensions' in South China Sea

2016-02-18 00:01:29 GMT2016-02-18 08:01:29(Beijing Time)  Global Times

US has ulterior motives in reporting S.China Sea defense: expert

The US has ulterior motives in hyping up China's deployment of missile defense systems on an island in the South China Sea, analysts said on Wednesday.

China's defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it is lawful for China to deploy defense facilities within its territory, and the facilities have existed for years. "The hype of some Western media is merely a rehash of the 'China threat,'" it added.

The allegation came as Fox News reported that images from civilian satellite company ImageSat International showed what are believed to be two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system on a Chinese reef.

Citing US and Taiwan defense officials for confirmation of the missile deployment, Fox News said that the missiles arrived on Yongxing Island in the past week.

Also on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing that he hoped Western media would pay more attention to the lighthouses China has built on the islands and those to be built, including weather monitoring facilities and shelters for fishing boats on the islands, which are "public service products that China will offer to the international community."

China is entitled to deploy "limited and necessary defense facilities" on its islands for self defense, which has nothing to do with "militarization," Wang Yi said.

US Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, told a briefing on Wednesday that the missile deployment would be a "clear indication of militarization" and contrary to China's pledge not to militarize the region, Reuters reported.

Wang said demilitarization in the South China Sea needs the joint efforts of all countries in or outside this region. China hopes the demilitarization promises in the agreement newly reached by the US and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can be fulfilled, Wang said.

Strong deterrence

While China did not specify what defense facilities were deployed, Fox News cited a US defense official as saying that the missile system is the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile.

The HQ-9 is China's first independently-designed area air defense missile. With a maximum range of 200 kilometers, the HQ-9 is comparable to the US Patriot missile, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

"Should the HQ-9 be deployed on the island, it will pose an important deterrent to Western provocations, but it can play a bigger role in early-warning with its advanced radar system," a Wuhan-based military expert, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times. She emphasized that the HQ-9 is a defensive system, and because Yongxing Island is far from the Chinese mainland, it needs such facilities.

More troubles

"Constant US hype about the South China Sea issue aims to make more trouble in the region so that the US can deploy its forces and get further involved," Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times.

"It is normal to deploy proper defense forces in the region, since a large number of Chinese fishing boats operate in the South China Sea and hydrological and meteorological stations are set up on several islands, in addition to civil airplanes," Li said.

A US Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Zhongjian Island in the Xisha Islands last month, the latest of its military actions in the region. It is calling more countries to join its "regular patrols," according to earlier reports.

Wang Xiaopeng, an expert in maritime and border studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the US has failed to consider the security and rights of Chinese people on those islands, many of whom have been providing services to ensure free navigation.

The US patrols are actually interrupting free navigation in these areas, Wang said.

The People's Liberation Army Daily published an article recalling the decade-long history of troops stationed in the Xisha Islands on Wednesday. While it talked about live-ammunition drills and intense ship patrols in specific regions, it also pointed out that troops have helped a number of civilian ships and protected local ecology.

Need to ease tensions

News of the missile deployment came as US President Barack Obama and leaders of ASEAN countries concluded a meeting in California, where they discussed the need to ease tensions in the region, but did not include specific mention of China's pursuit of its claims in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.

Prior to the meeting, the US said the security situation in the South China Sea would be high on the agenda during the talks.

Wang Yiwei, a professor at the Institute of International Affairs of the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the US did not get what it had hoped for - to woo some ASEAN countries against China - because it had cared too much about its own interests instead of the interests of all ASEAN members in this region.

"Many ASEAN countries do not have territorial disputes with China. Nor are they willing to be 'abducted' by the Philippines," he said, adding that ASEAN eyes long-term interests with China and is more willing to join China's economic development bandwagon, such as the new Silk Road trade program.

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