In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The China Daily newspaper reported Saturday, May 19, 2018 that People's Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber in the South China Sea.
Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File
US: We have strong evidence China deployed missiles, bombers in Spratlys
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - May 24, 2018 - 11:07am

MANILA, Philippines — Citing strong evidence that Beijing has deployed weapons and jammers in the Spratly Islands, Washington called out Chinese President Xi Jinping for violating his promise not to militarize the South China Sea.

The Pentagon withdrew its invitation for China to participate in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RimPac), a multinational naval exercise that the US hosts every year.

"We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea," Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said in a statement.

China's landing of bomber aircraft on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands has also raised tension, the Pentagon noted.

Logan pointed out that China's behavior in the South China Sea was inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RimPac Exercise, which the US military considers the largest international maritime exercise.

The Pentagon said that the decision to disinvite China's People's Liberation Army Navy from the maritime exercise was an "initial response" to China's militarization of the disputed waterway.

"China's continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region," Logan said.

Beijing has insisted that the construction of artificial islands were meant for non-military functions but the installment of weapons on the islands is for military use, the Pentagon said.

"We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands," the Pentagon spokesman said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meanwhile, said that the decision was "unhelpful to mutual understanding" between the two countries and urged the US to change its "negative mindset."

In a joint news conference with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington, Wang described the deployments as necessary defense of China's sovereign territory. He compared China's defense facilities to US military presence in Hawaii and Guam.

Washington's decision to disinvite Beijing from RimPac comes a week before the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's premier defense summit which will be held in Singapore.

Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at Rand Corporation, said that disinviting China shortly before the defense summit was "pretty cold" and "embarrassing" for Beijing.

"[US Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis now has real momentum going into [Shangri-La Dialogue] as most participants agree with US position," Grossman said in Twitter.

China had insisted that the deployment of an H-6K bomber on Woody Island, its largest base in the Paracels, were a normal training of Chinese military.

"The South China Sea Islands are China's territory. The relevant military activities are the normal training of the Chinese military and there is no need for other parties to over-interpret that," Chinese Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing Monday.

PENTAGON SOUTH CHINA SEA US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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