China Deploys Missiles On Disputed South China Sea Islands — Country Downplays Report, But U.S. Remains Suspicious

China has apparently deployed missiles on the disputed artificial islands in the South China Sea. While the country’s senior leadership attempted to downplay the reports about the deployment, America remains highly skeptical.

China seems to have deployed surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea. Such a move could significantly escalate regional tensions with China’s neighbors, who are already weary about the artificial outposts and the United States, which considers the move to be an indication of military escalation. Such an action from China indicates how Beijing and Washington are intensely focused over the strategically critical region, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Interestingly, China has neither confirmed nor denied reports by America or Taiwan that insists that the country has placed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel island chain. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense released an official statement, saying the country had “grasped that Communist China had deployed an unspecified number of missiles on the island.”

“The military will pay close attention to subsequent developments. Relevant parties should work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea region to refrain from any unilateral measure that would increase tensions.”

Meanwhile, the Philippine government added that the deployment of missiles by China in South China Sea has significantly raised regional tensions.

Though there’s no confirmation, Chinese officials did claim they plan to keep strengthening defensive capabilities in the South China Sea. Attempting to downplay the reports, Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday counter accused the media of hyping the issue and saying more attention should be paid to what he called “public goods and services” provided by China’s development of its maritime claims, reported Fox News. Interestingly, Wang noted he himself became aware of the deployment after talks with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop and insists such reports are merely attempts by “certain Western media” to “create news stories.”

While Wang hasn’t denied the presence of military vehicles in the region, he claims they have been deployed for “civilian development,” which includes “construction of lighthouses, weather stations, and rescue and shelter facilities for fishermen.”

“All of those are actions that China, as the biggest littoral state in the South China Sea, has undertaken to provide more public goods and services to the international community and play its positive role there.”

Unconfirmed reports indicate China may have deployed at least two batteries of surface-to-air missiles of the HQ-9 system, along with radar targeting arrays. If the reports pan out to be accurate, China now has the ability to target anything within a range of 125 miles, gravely increasing threat to all forms of civilian and military aircraft in the region.

Neither China’s neighbors nor the United States is happy about the flurry of activity in the South China Sea, orchestrated by China. Countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have been visibly upset with China’s increased activities, reported the Christian Science Monitor. Recently the country redeployed an oil field in the region, upsetting Vietnam. China seems unperturbed by the rising tensions and intends to bolster its claim to sovereignty over most of the sea and the many reefs and islets in it.

The United States does not recognize China’s claims over the South China Sea. As an apparent show of force, America, in recent months, has sailed warships and flown military aircraft near the Chinese outposts to assert its right to freedom of navigation, reported New York Times. Without directly referring to the missile deployment, Barack Obama noted the “need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to reduce tension, including a halt to further land reclamation.”

[Photo by Jay Directo/Getty Images]