On Feb. 16, Taiwanese military officials indicated that the Chinese had installed a battery of advanced surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Yongxing Island in the South China Sea. The story got picked up by multiple international media sources, but Beijing, again stressing its “9-Dash-Line” claim, says the attention is unwarranted.
Bashing what it called an overblown notion of the “China Threat” in the West, China’s Ministry of National Defense said that the “sea and air defense facilities on the relevant islands and reefs have been deployed for many years,” as reported in an article published on Feb. 18 by the English edition of China Military Online, a publication sponsored by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
The article refutes the recent Western reporting, according to which the missiles arrived over the course of about a week from Feb. 3 to Feb. 14.
The missiles in question are the HQ-9. This anti-aircraft missile has close similarity to the Soviet-designed S-300, and has an attack radius of about 125 miles. Equipped with advanced radars, a detail of launchers would be able to threaten hostile aircraft in much of the South China Sea region.
To the chagrin of many other nations, including Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, China claims nearly the entirety of the South China Sea, through which passes an estimated 30 percent of the world’s shipping. The island in this latest episode, the Yongxing or Woody Island, is simultaneously claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
In recent years, the world’s most populous country has made headlines for provoking foreign, including U.S. vessels and aircraft, as well as building artificial islands and airbases to physically reinforce its claims to the area.
The China Military Online article accuses the United States of harboring “ulterior motives” in the South China Sea and that it is trying to “sow discord” on an issue that, in Beijing’s eyes, concerns “China’s inherent territories.”
Later in the day on Feb. 18, China Military Online published another article quoting a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, who said the missile “deployment is not related to ‘militarization'” and referred to the news attention as “hype.”