The Chinese military has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of its contested islands in the South China Sea according to civilian satellite imagery exclusively obtained by Fox News, more evidence that China is increasingly “militarizing” its islands in the South China Sea and ramping up tensions in the region.
The imagery from ImageSat International (ISI) 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.
It is the same island chain where a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed close to another contested island a few weeks ago. China at the time vowed “consequences” for the action.
Woody Island is also claimed by Taiwan and by Vietnam.
The missiles arrived over the past week. According to the images, a beach on the island was empty on Feb. 3, but the missiles were visible by Feb. 14.
A U.S. official confirmed the accuracy of the photos. The official said the imagery viewed appears to show the HQ-9 air defense system, which closely resembles Russia’s S-300 missile system. The HQ-9 has a range of 125 miles, which would pose a threat to any airplanes, civilians or military, flying close by.
This comes as President Obama hosts 10 leaders from Southeast Asia — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Bruneil, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia — in Palm Springs, many of those leaders concerned over China’s recent activity in the South China Sea. “The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Obama said Tuesday.
The Pentagon was watching the developments closely, a defense official told Fox News. “The United States continues to call on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction, and militarization of features in the South China Sea,” the official said.
In the past two years, China has built over 3,000 acres of territory atop seven reefs in the area. There are a total of three runways built on three of the artificial islands.
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