US tells China to remove missile systems in South China Sea


China has been warned by the United States to dismantle its missile systems shield deployed in the disputed Spratly Islands chain in the South China Sea.

The move, believed to be the first time Washington has directly addressed the issue, came in a statement following high-level talks at last week’s second annual US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue.

Trade war tensions were expected to dominate the meetings in Washington.

But it was the military buildup in the South China Sea which was brought into sharp focus during discussions between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and their opposite numbers, Beijing’s leading diplomat Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe.

“The United States called on China to withdraw its missile systems from disputed features in the Spratly Islands, and reaffirmed that all countries should avoid addressing disputes through coercion or intimidation,” the US statement said.

Concerns have been growing among Southeast Asian nations and Washington that China was slowly establishing an air defense zone around previously uninhabited islands, reefs and atolls in one of the world’s most important sea lanes.

US and allies
Military bases have been constructed as Beijing flouts international law, claiming the islands are integral parts of China.

The US and its allies have been told by President Xi Jinping’s administration to stop sending ships and aircraft near what the world’s second-largest economy considers to be sovereign territory.

In response, Mattis has made it clear that the US will “fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

During the past year, the US and its allies have conducted maneuvers in the South China Sea, which is vital for global trade with goods and products worth between US$3 trillion and $5 trillion passing through vital sea routes.