Some satellite images show missile batteries on Yongxing, Paracel islands, which are claimed by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. Taipei confirms their presence, whilst Beijing slams certain Western media for creating news stories.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The situation in the South China Sea is likely to worsen following news that Beijing deployed a powerful system of ground-to-air missiles on one of the islands at the centre of ongoing territorial disputes.
Yongxing, also known as Woody Island, is part of the Paracel Island chain, and has been under Chinese control for 40 years, but is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
Fox News reported that satellite images showed two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system.
Taiwan, which until now has always maintained a conciliatory attitude, has confirmed the installation, described the move as provocative.
According to analysts, the change in tone stems from the victory in Taiwan’s recent election by the Democratic Progressive Party, which is more intransigent than the island’s Kuomintang party vis-à-vis the mainland.
However, responding to such reports, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, "We believe this is an attempt by certain Western media to create news stories.”
More importantly, “As for the limited and necessary self-defence facilities China has built on islands and reefs stationed by Chinese personnel, that is consistent with the self-defence and self-preservation China is entitled to under international law”, and “there should be no question about that."
Yongxing is the largest island in the Paracel chain. About a thousand people, all Chinese – soldiers, labourers and fishermen – live on the island.
Satellite images appear to show the HQ-9 air defence system, which has a range of 200 km.
In addition to China, the stretch of sea between the Spratly and Paracel Islands is claimed by several countries in the region, including Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.
Beijing is building a group of artificial islands in the area with airstrips for both civil and military use.