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

  • 11 trapped in China's latest coal mine accident

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - A gas explosion has trapped 11 Chinese coal miners underground, in the latest in a string of deadly accidents striking the industry after 53 miners were killed in two similar blasts last week. Source
  • Families could pay up to $420 more for food in 2017, report finds

    Canada News CBC News
    The average Canadian family may need to dish out as much as $420 more for food next year — and consumers could have president-elect Donald Trump to thank for part of the price bump, the lead author of a new report says. Source
  • Trump's Taiwan call could disrupt 'very calibrated dance' between U.S., China

    World News CBC News
    A phone call and a diplomatic reset? It's not ever quite that simple when it comes to relations between America, China and Taiwan. Handled the wrong way and it can get downright hostile. More than two decades before U.S. Source
  • Trump signals tougher China policy, possibly by accident

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Whether by accident or design, President-elect Donald Trump is signalling a tougher American policy toward China, sparking warnings from both the outgoing Obama administration and Beijing. On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said progress with the Chinese could be "undermined" by a flare-up over the sovereignty of Taiwan, the self-governing island the U.S. Source
  • Edmonton dog breeding operation shut down

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A man and woman are charged after dozens of dogs at a local breeding operation were found suffering in horrific conditions, says the Edmonton Humane Society (EHS). “I’ve been here six years now in the animal protection department and this is the worst one I’ve seen for the number of animals confined to these spaces,” said peace officer B.Grey, supervisor of Animal Protection Services with the Edmonton Humane Society. Source
  • Edmonton man admits to backing over his girlfriend with a van and driving over her

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    An Edmonton man admitted in court Monday to fleeing after hitting his longtime girlfriend with a van and driving over her — leaving her badly injured — following an argument outside a north-side casino. Jahanbakhsh Ahmadi, 51, pleaded guilty in Court of Queen's Bench to failing to stop at the scene of an accident and offer assistance, knowing that bodily harm had been caused, with intent to escape civil or criminal liability. Source
  • Edmonton police investigate after man ties noose, threatens two Muslim women

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Edmonton police are looking for a man who harassed two Muslim women at the University LRT station earlier this month. Two young women, both wearing hijabs, were approached by a man while standing on the station platform about 8:20 a.m. Source
  • Facebook, YouTube and others introduce database to combat terrorist propaganda online

    World News CBC News
    Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube are joining forces to more quickly identify the worst terrorist propaganda and prevent it from spreading online. The new program announced Monday would create a database of unique digital "fingerprints" to help automatically identify videos or images the companies could remove. Source
  • Tamara Lovet on trial for son's death: I failed as a mother

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The defence is arguing its case today at the trial of a woman who treated her son with dandelion tea and oil of oregano before he died of a strep infection. Tamara Lovett's trial is entering its second week in a Calgary courtroom. Source
  • B.C. fishermen survive sinking boat, only to spend night with cougar

    Canada News CTV News
    Two boaters off the coast of B.C. have an extraordinary story to tell after surviving a boat sinking and a cougar stalking them during their bid for rescue. The two men were out crab fishing on Saturday in a small boat in Discovery Passage, a narrow passage between Vancouver Island and Quadra Island, when their boat started sinking just before dark. Source