China says deployment of military equipment on Spratlys is legitimate


BEIJING (REUTERS, AFP) – China said Thursday (Dec 15) that the deployment of weapons in the South China Sea had “nothing to do with militarisation”, calling the construction of defensive facilities “normal”.

Speaking at a regular press briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told journalists that he was not aware of the report, but said that islands in the South China Sea were the country’s “inherent territory”.

“To conduct construction on China’s own territory and deploy necessary national defence facilities is quite normal,” he said, adding that the deployment of defensive weapons had “nothing to do with militarisation”.

The comments came after a US think tank reported on Wednesday that China appeared to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the busy waterway, citing new satellite imagery.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said its findings come despite statements by the Chinese leadership that Beijing has no intention to militarise the islands in the strategic trade route, where territory is claimed by several countries.

AMTI said it had been tracking construction of hexagonal structures on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs in the Spratly Islands since June and July. China has already built military length airstrips on these islands.

“It now seems that these structures are an evolution of point-defence fortifications already constructed at China’s smaller facilities on Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, and Cuarteron reefs,” it said citing images taken in November and made available to Reuters. “This model has gone through another evolution at (the) much-larger bases on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs.”