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Report: China deploys missiles in contested South China Sea island

Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on Woody Island in the Paracel Island chain. Google Earth

MANILA, Philippines - China has deployed a surface-to-air missile system to one of the contested islands in the disputed South China Sea, according to a report.

Fox News obtained civilian satellite imagery from ImageSat International which shows advanced missile launchers and a radar system on Woody Island.

This proves that China is militarizing the islands in the disputed sea and intensifies tensions in the region, according to the report.

READ: Asean leaders concerned over China militarization

The imagery dated February 14 showed two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers which appear to be the HQ-9 air defense system.

The HQ-9 has a range of 125 miles and is closely similar to Russia's S-300 missile system. It poses a threat to airplanes, civilians or military flying in the near the area.

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The missile system arrived over the past week as the images showed that a beach on the island was empty on February 3.

Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on Woody Island in the Paracel Island chain, the same group of islands where a US Navy destroyer sailed close to a few weeks ago.

US Navy guided-missile destroyer Curties Wilbur recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel Island chain.

China vowed "consequences" for the action which "violated Chinese law" and was a "deliberate provocation."

The discovery of Chinese missiles in the contested island comes as US President Barack Obama hosts the 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in California.

Obama and the Southeast Asia leaders called for a peaceful resolution of the maritime disputes in the region as they concluded the summit.

According to Fox News, the Pentagon is watching the developments in the South China Sea closely.

"The United States continues to call on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction, and militarization of features in the South China Sea," a US Defense official told Fox News.

President Benigno Aquino III also underscored the importance of upholding the rule of law and peaceful resolution of territorial dispute during the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit.

China has been building artificial islands in the Spratly Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines earlier filed an arbitration case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands. The international tribunal is expected to come out with a decision by May. - Patricia Lourdes Viray

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