China Militarizes At Least Three Islands In South China Sea
SOUTH CHINA SEA - China has armed three of the islands that the country built in disputed waters in the South China Sea, installing anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and equipment for jamming signals and stationing fighter jets on them according to a report by AP News on Sunday.
U.S. Indo-Pacific commander, Admiral John C. Aquilino told AP news that the hostile actions by China in the South China Sea are in contrast to past assurances by Chinese President Xi Jiping that Beijing would not be transforming the artificial islands into military bases. He said that the actions show Chinese muscle flexing.
"I think over the past 20 years we’ve witnessed the largest military buildup since World War II by the PRC", Aquilino told The Associated Press during an interview. "They have advanced all their capabilities and that buildup of weaponization is destabilizing to the region" he said.
Although there has been no explanation from Chinese officials regarding the militarization of the islands in the contested waters of the South China Sea, China has always insisted that its military intentions are nothing but defensive.
An AP reporter spoke with Aquilino aboard a U.S. Navy reconnaissance aircraft that flew close to Chinese outposts in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea and was repeatedly given the following warning by the Chinese military: "China has sovereignty over the Spratly islands, as well as surrounding maritime areas. Stay away immediately to avoid misjudgment".
United States aircraft ignore such messages and continues on their mission despite the continued warnings, however. The U.S. reconnaissance aircraft stated back over the radio, "I am a sovereign immune United States naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state".
"Exercising these rights is guaranteed by international law and I am operating with due regard to the rights and duties of all states" he continued over the radio in response to the warning messages.
AP reported that the Chinese occupied reefs contained buildings, hangers, warehouses, seaports, runways and radar systems along with around 40 anchored vessels and that Aquilino said construction of military facilities on Mischief Reef, Subi Reeef and Fiery Cross looks to be completed, but the it is yet unknown whether China will build military infrastructure in other areas as well.
"The function of those islands is to expand the offensive capability of the PRC beyond their continental shores. They can fly fighters, bombers plus all those offensive capabilities of missile systems" AP quoted him as saying.
"So that’s the threat that exists, that’s why it’s so concerning for the militarization of these islands. They threaten all nations who operate in the vicinity and all the international sea and airspace".