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

  • An arm of the state should not be forcing lawyers to declare their values

    Canada News CBC News
    Over the past couple of weeks I've become Canada's most notorious law professor. I filed an application requesting the Superior Court of Ontario review the legality and constitutionality of the new requirement imposed by the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) that lawyers and paralegals "demonstrate a personal valuing of diversity, equality, and inclusion. Source
  • Canada Post is scaling back its letters-from-Santa program for kids who write from school

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada Post says Santa won't be sending as many personalized letters to kids this year, though he still wants to make sure he responds to every note he receives. The postal agency says many children write letters to Santa both from home and from school, which gave Santa and his elves a total of 1.6 million notes to reply to last year. Source
  • Hydro hip-hop: listen to two tunes about Ontario hydro bills

    Canada News CTV News
    The Wack MCs have the “Hydro Blues.” “Look at this bill -- am I reading it right?” they rap in a new music video. “If I feed my kids, I gotta shut off my lights?” Source
  • 12 dead in hotel fire in Georgia's Black Sea resort

    World News CTV News
    TBILISI, Georgia -- The Georgian Interior Ministry says 12 people have died in a fire in a hotel in the Black Sea resort city of Batumi. Russia's TASS news agency is quoting the ministry as saying the fire engulfed the Leogrand hotel late Friday evening. Source
  • Canadian charged in Yahoo hacking case to plead guilty in U.S., court records say

    Canada News CBC News
    A Canadian accused by the United States of helping Russian intelligence agents break into email accounts as part of a massive 2014 breach of Yahoo accounts is expected to plead guilty next week, according to court records. Source
  • Notley wins over Calgary business crowd, starting with 'eastern bastards' remark

    Canada News CBC News
    Two years after struggling through a speech in front of an awkwardly silent business crowd, Rachel Notley stood before the Calgary Chamber again on Friday and opened with a joke. "I spent the earlier part of the week out in Ontario — you know, the home of those eastern bastards," the Alberta premier said. Source
  • Starting with 'eastern bastards' remark, Notley wins over Calgary business crowd

    Canada News CBC News
    Two years after struggling through a speech in front of an awkwardly silent business crowd, Rachel Notley stood before the Calgary Chamber again on Friday and opened with a joke. "I spent the earlier part of the week out in Ontario — you know, the home of those eastern bastards," the Alberta premier said. Source
  • Jewish group, residents of Ontario town urge new name for 'Swastika Trail'

    Canada News CTV News
    A major Jewish advocacy group in Canada has stepped up efforts to help some residents of an Ontario town convince local politicians to rename a street currently called Swastika Trail. B'nai Brith Canada started an online petition Thursday calling on Puslinch Township, about 75 kilometres west of Toronto, to change the street name. Source
  • Fraud trial of the 'Muslim Madoff' adjourned after accused fires lawyer: Crown

    Canada News CBC News
    The trial of a Toronto businessman charged with fraud for allegedly pocketing millions in "Shariah-compliant" mortgages has been delayed until next fall — just as it was beginning. The opening day of the trial for Omar Kalair, dubbed the "Muslim Madoff" by some of the homeowners who were allegedly left thousands in the hole after buying into the mortgages marketed to Muslims, got underway earlier this month. Source
  • False killer whale is latest cetacean to die at Vancouver Aquarium

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Aquarium says the false killer whale it rescued off a beach over three years ago has died at the facility. The aquarium says in a statement that Chester's behaviour changed Wednesday and despite intensive veterinary care, he died this morning. Source