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

  • Memorial site: Alberta apologizes to families for cleaning up plane wreckage

    Canada News CTV News
    WHITECOURT, Alta. -- The province of Alberta is apologizing to the families of three people killed in a plane crash almost 65 years ago after cleaning up the wreckage without warning. A memorial site near Whitecourt, Alta. Source
  • Ontario PCs' Urgent Priorities Act to address hydro salaries, York University strike

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ontario's new Progressive Conservative government has introduced legislation that, if passed, would give it sweeping new powers over executive compensation at Hydro One. The bill, dubbed the Urgent Priorities Act, was introduced today by Energy Minister Greg Rickford and would give the government authority to approve executive compensation at the utility. Source
  • 'This is shameful': Trump's news conference with Putin stuns fellow Republicans

    World News CBC News
    On a trip in which Donald Trump dumbfounded allies and his usual critics in the Democrat Party with comments concerning the European Union and British leaders, the U.S. president ended with a news conference performance at his first head-to-head summit with Russia President Vladimir Putin that had even some Republicans shaking their heads. Source
  • Lawmakers call Trump's performance 'bizarre,' 'shameful'

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Key members of Congress, including some Republicans, are criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump's performance at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as "bizarre," "shameful" and a "missed opportunity" to stand up to Russia. Source
  • Members of Trudeau's youth council urge cancellation of Kinder Morgan buyout

    Canada News CBC News
    Members of Justin Trudeau's youth council are urging the prime minister to withdraw his decision to buy Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline. Sixteen past and present members of the youth council are releasing a letter to Trudeau expressing their "disappointment" in the Liberal government's move to buy the pipeline project for $4.5 billion. Source
  • Judge temporarily halts deportation of reunified families

    World News CTV News
    SAN DIEGO -- A federal judge on Monday ordered a temporary halt to any deportations of reunited families who were separated by the Trump administration after crossing the southwest border. The American Civil Liberties Union had asked Judge Dana Sabraw to delay deportations a week after reunification. Source
  • 'A class act': Ray Emery played in a Hamilton charity hockey game the night before he died

    Canada News CBC News
    Ray Emery was giving back to Hamilton and playing the game he loved the night before he died. The ex-NHL goalie was one of several current and former professional players who hit the ice as part of Hockey Night in Hamilton, a charity game that raised funds for Food4Kids. Source
  • Workers at Goderich salt mine accept deal to end 12-week strike

    Canada News CBC News
    The 12-week strike at the salt mine in Goderich, Ontario is over. Workers voted Monday to accept a three-year deal reached between Unifor Local 16-0 and the mine owner, Compass Minerals. The salt mine, the world's largest, employs more than 350 unionized workers. Source
  • Iran arrests 46 in fresh crackdowns on Instagram models

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of people in fresh crackdowns on models and associated colleagues posting "immoral images" online. The official IRNA news agency reported Monday that officials in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, some 1250 kilometres, or 630 miles, south of the capital Tehran, arrested eight women and 36 other people in the photography, beauty salons and wedding businesses who used Instagram to share what they considered indecent images and…
  • 'Kloe inside washer': Mom's post about girl trapped in front-loading machine goes viral

    World News CTV News
    A mother is warning other parents about the dangers of front-loaded laundry equipment after her three-year-old daughter became trapped in a new washing machine. Lindsey McIver’s story has garnered more than 250,000 shares on Facebook since July 11. Source