China's foreign minister downplays reports of missile deployment in South China Sea

BEIJING - Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday sought to downplay reports that China had positioned anti-aircraft missiles on a disputed South China Sea island, accusing 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.

See Full Article

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence said in a statement it had "grasped that Communist China had deployed" an unspecified number of missiles on Woody Island in the Paracel group. The Philippines said the development increased regional tensions.

The move would follow China's building of new islands in the disputed sea by piling sand atop reefs and then adding airstrips and military installations. They are seen as part of Beijing's efforts to claim virtually the entire South China Sea and its resources, which has prompted some of its wary neighbours to draw closer to the U.S.

The most dramatic work has taken place in the Spratly Island group, where the militaries of four nations have a presence, although similar work has also gone on at Woody and other Chinese holdings in the Paracels.

"The military will pay close attention to subsequent developments," the Taiwanese ministry statement said. 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," the statement added.

U.S. network Fox News also said China had moved surface-to-air missiles to the Paracels, identifying them as two batteries of the HQ-9 system, along with radar targeting arrays. The missiles have a range of about 200 kilometres (125 miles), making them a threat to all forms of civilian and military aircraft.

Following talks with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop, Wang said he had become aware of the missile reports just minutes before.

"We believe this is an attempt by certain Western media to create news stories," Wang said.

Echoing claims that the development was largely civilian oriented and benefited the region, Wang pointed to the construction of light houses, 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," Wang said.

Wang said China's construction of military infrastructure was "consistent with the right to self-preservation and self-protection that China is entitled to under international law, so there should be no question about that."

Bishop reiterated that, like the U.S., Australia does not take sides on the issue of sovereignty, but urges all sides to maintain peace and stability. Australia welcomes statements by Chinese President Xi Jinping that "China does not intend to militarize these islands," she said.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said he was unable to confirm the missile reports, but added the issue "concerns me greatly."

"This could be an indication, if there are missiles there, it could be an indication of militarization of the South China Sea in ways that the president of China, that President Xi said he would not do," Harris said.

Called Yongxingdao by China, Woody island is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. Along with an artificial harbour, it boasts an airport, roads, army posts and other buildings and recent satellite imagery appears to show it is adding a helicopter base likely dedicated to anti-submarine warfare missions.

Taiwan and China claim almost the whole 3.5 million-square-kilometre (1.35 million-square-mile) South China Sea, including the Paracel chain. Vietnam and the Philippines claim much of the ocean, as well. Brunei and Malaysia have smaller claims.

Home to some of the world's busiest sea lanes, the ocean is also rich in fisheries and may hold oil and natural gas reserves under the seabed.

China's move is likely to rattle Vietnam the most because of its proximity to the Paracels and because of a history of maritime tensions with China that spiked in 2014 with a standoff after China moved a massive oil rig into disputed waters.

China regards Australia and the U.S. as unwelcome outside interlopers in regional waters. Wang and Bishop engaged in a testy exchange in December 2013 after Australia criticized China's unilateral declaration of an air defence zone in the East China Sea.

Ahead of Bishop's visit, President Barack Obama and the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations called Tuesday for the peaceful resolution of the region's maritime disputes.

Obama told a news conference that disputes must be resolved by legal means, including a case brought by the Philippines challenging China's sweeping claims over most of the South China Sea.

China has refused to take part in the proceedings, but Obama said parties to the UN law of the seas are obligated to respect the ruling, expected later this year.

Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the deployment of missiles on Woody Island "increases tensions in the South China Sea."

Analysts say China's military moves in the South China Sea are primarily aimed at intimidating the Philippines and Vietnam, while solidifying its hold on the islands and boosting its ability to project force.

That is meanwhile strengthening those in the U.S., especially in the Pentagon, who "will want to more vigorously challenge China," said Thomas Berger, an expert on the region at Boston University.

-----

Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Tran Van Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam, also contributed.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Iraqi forces facing stiff resistance in western Mosul

    World News CTV News
    SOUTH OF MOSUL, Iraq -- Iraqi forces pushed deeper into western Mosul Saturday amid stiff resistance from entrenched Islamic State fighters, a commander on the scene said. Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said that his troops are "moving very slowly" and that IS fighters are responding with car bombs, snipers and dozens of armed drones. Source
  • Attack on Syrian security forces in Homs kills dozens, prompts airstrikes

    World News CBC News
    Suicide bombers stormed two Syrian security offices in Homs on Saturday, killing dozens with gunfire and explosions including a senior officer and prompting airstrikes against the last rebel-held enclave in the western city. The jihadist rebel alliance Tahrir al-Sham said in a social media post that five suicide bombers had carried out the attack, which it celebrated with the words "thanks be to God," but stopped short of explicitly claiming responsibility. Source
  • TSB investigating Toronto incident involving Air Canada plane

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The Transportation Safety Board is investigating an incident involving an Air Canada flight from Halifax that landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Friday night. A safety board spokeswoman says Flight 623 was carrying 118 people and so far no injuries have been reported. Source
  • No winning ticket for Friday night's $10M Lotto Max draw

    Canada News CTV News
    If you’re feeling lucky you might want to pick up a Lotto Max ticket, because this Friday’s jackpot is going to be a record breaker. Source
  • Zimbabwe's Mugabe marks 93rd birthday in opposition area

    World News CTV News
    MATOPO HILLS, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 93rd birthday Saturday amid granite hills where ancient spirits are said to dwell, defying calls to resign after nearly four decades in power in a region known for opposing the man who says he'll run again in 2018 elections. Source
  • 'Luckiest 2 guys in the Arctic' rescued by military plane training for search and rescue

    Canada News CBC News
    A Royal Canadian Air Force Twin Otter crew out for some search and rescue training accidentally found, and rescued, two Nunavut hunters needing help this week. Thom Doelman, a captain with the Royal Canadian Air Force out of Yellowknife, said the crew was flying near Hall Beach as part of Operation Nunalivut, a sovereignty operation conducted annually in Canada's North. Source
  • Quebec entrepreneurs hope to add positive touch to Oscar nominee gift bags

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Along with luxury vacations, diamond bracelets and personal training sessions, celebrities who receive unofficial gift bags at the Oscars this year will also get a modest offering from Quebec. The famously over-the-top swag bags, whose value usually runs in the six figures, is distributed annually by a Los Angeles-based marketing company to the nominees in the best actor, actress, supporting actor and actress and best director categories. Source
  • Islamic State militants kill 11 in mosque ambush: Afghan official

    World News CTV News
    KABUL -- At least 10 police officers and the wife of a police commander were killed in an ambush by Islamic States group militants in northern Zawzjan province, a provincial official said. Mohammad Reza Ghafori, spokesman for the Zawzjan provincial governor, said Saturday that the police officers were ambushed Friday as they were coming out of a mosque. Source
  • One dead, two injured in fire at Ontario youth home

    Canada News CTV News
    KAWARTHA LAKES, Ont. -- Ontario provincial police are investigating a fatal fire at a group home for teenagers in the Kawartha Lakes area. Members of the OPP's Kawartha Lakes Detachment were called to the youth facility northwest of the Village of Oakwook late Friday afternoon. Source
  • Twin attacks on Syrian security buildings kill at least 32

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT -- Twin attacks on two Syrian security offices in the central city of Homs Saturday killed at least 32 people, including a senior security official who heads the feared Military Intelligence services, state media and officials reported. Source