“South China Sea: Satellite photos ‘show weapons’ built on islands” BBC News, 14/12/16

Article Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-38319253

Our Summary: The BBC report begins with a satellite photo showing potential military structures on the South China Sea islands. China has previously said it does not intend to militarise the region. Satellite photos by a US group show anti aircraft guns and missile defence systems on several islands. The AMTI (Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative) has been monitoring the “construction of hexagon shaped buildings” on the Spratly Islands for many months and is confident all buildings “house military defences”.

The group claims some building can be seen with “gun barrels” showing and others maybe Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS), usually used to shoot down incoming missiles and aircraft. Some structures are hidden in the ground making them less exposed to air strikes. The AMTI suggest these weapons systems indicate China is “serious about defense of its artificial islands” and that these systems would a “last line of defense” in possible attacks from countries such as the US and others. There has been no comment from China about this issue. Previously China has claimed the islands are part of its sovereignty and therefore giving it a right to defend them. In October the US has sent warships into the region to “demonstrate the lawful use of the sea”, the islands sit around important shipping lanes, prompting China to comment the US move as “intentionally provocative”.

China has claimed most of the South China Sea including “reefs and islands” with building of artificial islands, dismaying others in the region. Those also contesting ownership of the region include “Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei”. In July, a case won by the Philippines at the International Tribunal for rights in the South China Sea against China, has been ignored. China claimed the case was “Ill-founded” and was not binding.

Our Verdict: This BBC News report highlights the ever escalating dispute between China and its neighbours. The continuing claims by China over the South China Sea with now military hardware presence on the Islands, shows how far China is willing to go to lay claim on the region. On the other hand the US warship exercise in October indicates it wont allow China to take an easy ride into the region. The installation of military hardware on the islands highlights China’s anticipation of possible military action on the islands by external forces, notably the US. This adds to our recent analysis on “China warns Trump against ignoring its Taiwan interests” Reuters, 13/12/16 of the changing China-US relationship. China’s ignoring of the International Tribunal verdict involving its claim to islands and the counter-claim by the Philippines, shows how China may not go away from the region without a fight.

Key Word: Anticipation



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