Tensions in the South China Sea region further escalated following Beijing’s deployment of missiles in the contested island. According to officials from the US and Taiwan, China has advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of the islands in the disputed region which could potentially worsen the conflict in the area.
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Major General David Lo said that China has set up the missile batteries on Woody Island. According to Fox News, Beijing’s move just supports claims that the country is indeed “militarizing” the South China Sea. Consequently, Woody Island belongs to the Paracel Islands chain which has been under Beijing’s control for over four decades. Vietnam and Taiwan have disputed claims over the island as well.
Fox News added that a U.S. defense official already confirmed the deployment of the missiles. According to the official, photos of the said deployment seemingly show that China deployed an HQ-9 air defense system that is largely identical to Russia’s S-300 missile system. Additionally, China’s missile system comes with a 125-mile range – making a threat to any plane (military or civilian) flying nearby.
The tension in the South China Sea is feared to possibly provoke two world powers – US and China – into what could be the World War 3. The region is the only arena where US and China might engage in direct confrontation. As soon as these two big players duel in the contested region, they can drag with them their equally powerful allies that are also at odds against each other: NATO for US and Russia for China.
China’s foreign minister countered that Western media is focusing on the wrong thing. The minister said that there should be more focus on the country’s construction of lighthouses to bolster shipping security in the region. “As for the limited and necessary self-defense facilities that China has built on islands and reefs we have people stationed on, this is consistent with the right to self-protection that China is entitled to under international law so there should be no question about it,” Reuters quoted Wang Yi.
China has been under fire for deploying military forces in the South China Sea with countries the United States watching close by. The West already warned China of further moves in the region. Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said that China’s moves are not surprising anymore but they emphasize concerns on what will happen in the region. “We will conduct more, and more complex, freedom of navigation operations as time goes on in the South China Sea,” said Harris. “We have no intention of stopping,” he said.