China Defends its South China Sea Missile Batteries

Woody Island (file image)

By MarEx 2016-02-17 20:47:29

On Wednesday, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi confirmed that Beijing had an installation of 32 HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on disputed Woody Island in the Paracel chain, adding that the batteries were “consistent with the right to self-preservation and self-protection.”

He said that the report of the deployment, in a story Tuesday by Fox News, was “an attempt by certain Western media to create news stories,” and that the installation of “national defense facilities on China's own territory has nothing to do with militarization in the South China Sea.”

U.S. Navy Pacific Command's commander, Admiral Harry Harris, countered Yi's characterization and said that the missiles “could be an indication of militarization in the South China Sea in ways that . . . President Xi [Jinping] said he would not do.”

Yi suggested that media should “pay more attention” to public goods like lighthouses, weather stations and search and rescue services that China is developing on its island claims, rather than covering the missile batteries.

China's Defense Ministry said Wednesday in the state-owned Global Times that the missiles had been on the island for years.

In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the missile installation was part of a pattern. "There is every evidence, every day that there has been an increase of militarization of one kind or another," Kerry told reporters when asked about the reported deployment. "It’s of serious concern . . . We have had these conversations with the Chinese and I am confident that over the next days we will have further very serious conversation on this."

Separately, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui expressed China's opposition to any proposed deployment of an American-made Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea.

The U.S. and South Korean governments have been in discussions regarding the THAAD system after a North Korean rocket test February 7 and the DPRK's fourth nuclear test January 6.

“China hopes relevant parties would show respect for China's interests and act with prudence, as the deployment is not conducive to easing the current tension and maintaining peace and stability in the region, but would impair China's strategic security interest,” Zhang said.