Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that China’s reported deployment of weapons in the South China Sea in recent weeks has escalated tensions in the contested waters.
In an interview with Channel News Asia on June 1, which was aired last week, the defense chief finally spoke of China’s installation of weapons in the artificial islands it has built in the Spratlys.
“I think all claimants have to do is to come together and then talk about de-escalating the issues,” he said. “But what’s happening there is China starts to militarize, put those defensive weapons in those claimed islands, but they are not actually islands, they were reefs before which were reclaimed, and I think they are just escalating the tensions some more.”
The US-based TV network CNBC reported in early May that China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air-missile systems on three of its biggest artificial islands in the Spratlys, which were close to the Philippines.
A month earlier, there were reports that China deployed military jamming equipment in two of its biggest outposts in the Spratlys. These developments have alarmed several nations.
“Maybe they believe that they are now in the situation where they can also dictate some of the terms in the region and that’s what’s happening,” Lorenzana said.