Spratly Island dispute: China deploys missiles in South China Sea

China leader Xi Jinping

GettyXi Jinping has allegedly fitted the outposts in the contested area with anti-ship cruise missiles

US Intelligence reports say the missiles were moved onto the Spratly Islands at some point in the past 30 days, most probably during recent military drills. It said the HQ-9B long-range, surface-to-air missiles could target aircraft, drones and cruise missiles within 160 nautical miles.

With its rich fisheries and oil and gas potential, the South China Sea has been a source of contention for decades. While Washington takes no position on the sovereignty claims, it has raised concerns that Beijing is "militarising" the South China Sea. The South China Sea issue has been brewing for years, with China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam making competing claims in waters with vital global shipping routes and what are believed to be significant oil and natural gas deposits.

The Chinese now lay claim to the Pratas, Paracels and Spratly islands, as well as the Macclesfield Bank area.

China has deployed a defensive missile system on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, the Chinese foreign ministry has confirmed.

A USA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. intelligence had seen some signs that China had moved some weapons systems to the Spratly Islands in the past month or so, but offered no details.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

"And there will be near-term and long-term consequences", Sanders told reporters, responding to a question on the Chinese military build up in the South China Sea and other parts of the world.

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"We have formally demarched the Chinese government, and we've requested that the Chinese investigate these incidents", she said.

One of the disputed reefs in the South China Sea Beijing is militarising.

Earlier media reported about the plans of China to open a new military base overseas, like "Bagnet".

"The PLA [People's Liberation Army] will be able to use these bases to challenge United States presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants", Davidson wrote.

On the topic of the South China Sea, Xi said at the time that "China does not intend to pursue militarization".

U.S. Adm. Philip Davidson said last month that China's forward operating bases appear to already be complete.

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