Tags: China | artificial islands | weaponry | South China Sea | arming | tensions | US

Report: China Moving Weapons to Artificial Islands in South China Sea

By    |   Wednesday, 27 May 2015 07:34 PM

China has reportedly moved weaponry onto artificial islands that it is building in contested areas of the South China Sea, raising tensions over a possible confrontation with the U.S. and its allies in the region.

Australian officials are particularly concerned China could introduce long-range radar, anti-aircraft guns, and regular surveillance flights, enabling it to wield military power across a maritime expanse encompassing some of Australia's busiest trading lanes, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The news is the latest sign of the Asian superpower's buildup of its naval power in the South China Sea, and comes just days after China played down reports its army was building in the South China Sea, likening the controversial island-building with ordinary construction such as building roads in an attempt to deflect criticism over an issue seen as inflaming tensions in the region, the Daily Mail reports.

But moving weaponry onto the disputed islands is sparking talk among Australian military officials about launching "freedom of navigation" missions by air and sea to demonstrate Australia is standing firm against Beijing's hardening claims, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

On Wednesday, Australia's top defense official, Dennis Richardson, told a Sydney forum that China's "unprecedented" island-building raises questions of "intent" and risks of "miscalculation."

"It is legitimate to ask the purpose of the land reclamation — tourism appears unlikely," he said in a speech at the New South Wales state Parliament, the newspaper reports. "Given the size and modernization of China's military, the use by China of land reclamation for military purposes would be of particular concern."

Even as China contends the island-building is benign, it warned in a Defense White Paper it would gradually expand "offshore waters defense" to include "open seas protection," adding it wouldn't tolerate other countries "meddling."

Last week, the United States demonstrated its irritation with a flyover by a P-8 surveillance plane, and now senior officers and officials in Australia speculate they could join a humanitarian or military exercise with the U.S. or one of several regional partners including Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

China lays claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, while Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines say they own all or parts of it.

In Taiwan on Tuesday, the island's president, Ma Ying-jeou, called for setting aside sovereignty disputes and jointly exploring for resources in the area. Taiwan occupies a number of islands, the Daily Mail notes.

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China has reportedly moved weaponry onto artificial islands that it is building in contested areas of the South China Sea, escalating tensions over a possible confrontation with the U.S. and its allies in the region.
China, artificial islands, weaponry, South China Sea, arming, tensions, US, Australia
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2015-34-27
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 07:34 PM
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