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

  • China imposes limit on oil supply to North Korea

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING -- China announced Saturday that it will limit oil exports to North Korea under U.N. sanctions over its nuclear and missile development, further reducing support from Pyongyang's last major trading partner, energy supplier and diplomatic ally. Source
  • Tempers fray as search for Mexico earthquake survivors winds down

    World News CBC News
    Tempers frayed in Mexico City on Friday as the search for survivors amid twisted rubble of collapsed buildings began to wind down, three days after the country's most deadly earthquake in a generation. The 7.1 magnitude quake levelled 52 buildings in the sprawling Mexican capital at lunchtime on Tuesday, leaving thousands homeless and close to 300 people dead. Source
  • Does North Korean H-bomb threat push U.S. closer to war?

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Would exploding a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific, as North Korea has threatened, push the current war of words between the U.S. and North Korea closer to actual war? As with much that has transpired lately in the U.S. Source
  • In Jojutla, Mexico, earthquake left hundreds homeless and hungry

    World News CTV News
    In the Mexican town of Jojutla, hundreds of people have been left homeless by Tuesday’s earthquake and so many buildings are damaged that some locals fear their town may never be rebuilt. Jojutla is just 50 kilometres from the magnitude 7.1 quake’s epicentre. Source
  • Now that bestiality is illegal in Ohio, convicted child rapist charged after allegedly giving dog oral sex

    World News Toronto Sun
    CLEVELAND — A man accused of performing a sex act on a dog has been charged under a new state law that criminalizes bestiality. The law went into effect March 21 and makes sexual contact with an animal a misdemeanour offence that carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail upon conviction. Source
  • This Canadian army corporal's Invictus training inspired her to revisit old dreams

    Canada News CBC News
    Kelly Scanlan had always planned for a lifetime of service. "I have police officers in my family, I have firefighters in my family and I kind of wanted to follow in that tradition when I was done with the military," the 26-year-old corporal with the Canadian infantry told CBC News Friday. Source
  • At least 21 U.S. states were targeted by election hacking

    World News CTV News
    The federal government on Friday told election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems before last year's presidential election. The notification came roughly a year after U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials first said states were targeted by hacking efforts possibly connected to Russia. Source
  • Mexicans homeless after quake rely on kindness of strangers to survive

    World News CBC News
    For 12 years, Adriana Lemos has walked up to apartment 903 of the Osa Mayor, a 14-storey apartment building in downtown Mexico City. Now, as she picks her way carefully up the stairs past piles of rubble, she fears this may be the last time she will see her home. Source
  • Suddenly homeless Mexicans rely on the kindness of strangers to survive after quake

    World News CBC News
    For 12 years, Adriana Lemos has walked up to apartment 903 of the Osa Mayor, a 14-storey apartment building in downtown Mexico City. Now, as she picks her way carefully up the stairs past piles of rubble, she fears this may be the last time she will see her home. Source
  • 'Russo-phobic hysteria' sours U.S. relationship: Russian foreign minister

    World News CTV News
    Russia's foreign minister said Friday the downturn in relations with the United States began with the Obama administration's "small-hearted" and "revengeful" actions and has plummeted further because of "Russo-phobic hysteria." Sergey Lavrov told a news conference there has been a lengthy campaign claiming Russia interfered in the U.S. Source