Chinese Fighter Jets Deployed In South China Sea
US officials revealed that Chinese fighter jets were deployed on a disputed island located in the South China Sea. However, the officials said China already deployed J-7 and J-11 fighter jets in the past after the runway was expanded in 2014.
The officials added the bigger concern was the permanent deployment of surface-to-air missiles by China on the island. The move of China comes amid a meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Washington recently.
US and Taiwanese officials said surface-to-air missiles were deployed by China on Woody Island, which is a part of the Paracel island chain. The move increased tension in the disputed seas.
However, Chinese state media indicated that the defenses on the island, including the Chinese fighter jets, were in place for years and it did not militarize the island. On February 14, satellite images from ImageSat International seemed to show a number of missile batteries as well as support vehicles on the island.
The Defense Ministry of Taiwan confirmed the deployment of surface-to-air missiles on the island. Unnamed US officials also said commercial satellite imagery showed missile batteries deployed on the disputed islands. The report increased tensions in the region, which is already embroiled in a number of territorial disputes. A senior Cabinet minister in Japan described the actions of China as unacceptable.
While the Paracel island chain is controlled by China, it is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. The other countries involved in disputes over a number of islands with China include the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. The state-controlled Global Times said the Defense Ministry of China revealed that the defense facilities on the islands have been in place for years. However, it remains uncertain if the report referred to the surface-to-air missiles identified by US and Taiwanese officials. Woody Island has been occupied by China for the past fifty years.
The Global Times also considered the Paracel Islands as part of the territory of China. The state-run media outlet also said China has the right to protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty through the deployment of defensive measures, including the Chinese fighter jets. The Global Times blamed Western media for increasing the hype on the supposed threat posed by China.
A spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, said the deployment of the defense facilities of China is reasonable an appropriate. Hong Lei added that they are designed to enhance the national defense capabilities of China, including the deployment of Chinese fighter jets, and should not be linked to the militarization of the region.
Neighboring countries of China appealed for restraint following the reported Chinese deployment of missile batteries in the disputed region. The appeal comes as concerns on the changing of the status quo within the region by China. The Central News Agency of Taiwan indicated that President-elect Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan said self-control should be exercised by all parties “based on the principle of peaceful resolution” of all disputes in the region.