After President Obama’s summit with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Taiwan’s defence ministry confirmed that China deployed surface-to-air missiles to a disputed island in the South China Sea.
Satellite imagery from ImageSat International shows two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea.
A US military official said the imagery viewed appears to show the HQ-9 air defence system, which has a range of 125 miles and would pose a threat to any aeroplanes, civilian or military, flying close by, Fox News reports.
Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “While I cannot comment on matters related to intelligence, we do watch these matters very closely.”
Beijing’s claims in the sea conflict with those of its regional neighbours Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei.
The South China Sea is the passageway to more than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide, according to Robert D. Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor and author of “Asia’s Cauldron.”
A US Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel chain last month in a move the Pentagon said was aimed at countering efforts by China, Vietnam and Taiwan to limit freedom of navigation.
China condemned the US action as provocative.
(Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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