After landing bomber aircraft, China installs new weapons in Paracels

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
After landing bomber aircraft, China installs new weapons in Paracels
Satellite imagery from May 12 shows the deployment of several new weapons systems to China’s base on Woody Island in the Paracels.
CSIS / AMTI via DigitalGlobe

MANILA, Philippines — In addition to landing a bomber aircraft on the South China Sea, China has deployed new weapon systems on its largest outpost in the Paracel Islands, according to a Washington-based think tank.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Transparency (AMTI) reported that based on a satellite photo dated May 12, Beijing has placed HQ-9 surface-to-air missile systems on Woody Island.

China initially deployed the same missile systems on the island in 2016. The outpost has long been prepared for air defenses with its 2,700-meter airstrip, radars and aircraft shelters.

"Since they are covered, it is difficult to definitively identify the new platforms, but they likely include truck-mounted surface-to-air or anti-ship cruise missiles and accompanying radars," the AMTI said.

The new weapons were probably placed on the outpost during the Chinese military's drills last May 8, according to the report.

Satellite image published by Fox News showed that the weapons were still on the island on May 20, indicating that the missiles will be there to stay.

The AMTI also observed that 20 new vehicles have been placed on the island. 

Two larger vehicles may be anti-air or anti-ship missile systems while two smaller ones appear to be a different missile system. Large radar trucks were also spotted on the island, as well as various support vehicles on the north shore.

On the east side of the island, two trucks and four covered vehicles were seen. The smaller vehicles are the almost the same size as the electronic jammers that China had deployed to the Spratly Islands.

China appears to have also landed a J-11 combat aircraft on Woody Island as one had been located parked near the end of the island's runway. Beijing had previously deployed a J-11 on the island in October last year.

"Woody Island is the military and administrative hub of China’s activities the Paracel Islands, and military upgrades and deployments there often serve as a blueprint for future developments at China’s bases in the Spratly Islands to the south," the AMTI said.

Meanwhile, China has insisted that it has "indisputable sovereignty" over the features on the disputed South China Sea.

The United States recently withdrew its invitation to China to the 2018 Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii in response to the latter's militarization of the disputed waterway.

"It is our inherent right as a sovereign state to carry out normal construction activities on our own territory and conduct normal military training," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry accused Washington of blackmailing Beijing into giving up its "inherent rights" over the South China Sea.

"No matter it is invitation or disinvitation, or whether there is this military drill or not, nothing will change China's resolve to play a positive role in upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea region or sway its firm determination to safeguard its security and sovereign rights and interests," Lu said.




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