BEIJING – China yesterday accused the US of militarizing the South China Sea, just days after it was revealed Beijing had deployed surface-to-air missiles on an island in the hotly disputed area.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters that patrols by US military aircraft and Navy vessels, along with joint exercises involving regional partners were the true reason why concerns were growing over peace and stability.
“The above actions have escalated tensions in the South China Sea, and that’s the real militarization of the South China Sea,” Hong said.
US and Taiwanese officials this week confirmed commercial satellite images showing the missiles placed on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel chain.
China has not denied the appearance of the missiles, but says it is entitled to defend its territory and points to the construction of lighthouses, weather stations and other infrastructure undertaken to provide more “public goods and services to the international community.”
The deployment follows China’s building of new islands by piling sand atop reefs and then adding airstrips and military installations. The buildup is seen as part of Beijing’s efforts to claim virtually the entire disputed sea and its resources.
The Philippines, which claims waters and features east of Woody island, yesterday said it was “gravely concerned” by reports of the missile deployments.
“Such actions negate China’s earlier commitment not to militarize the South China Sea,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
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