Special to WorldTribune.com
Satellite images show China has deployed the advanced HQ-9 surface-to-air missile system to a disputed island in the South China Sea.
Taiwanese and U.S. officials confirmed that batteries of the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launchers were set up on Woody Island in the Paracels chain, according to a report by Reuters. China, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim control of the island.
A U.S. official told Fox News the HQ-9 system, which has a range of 125 miles, would pose a threat to any airplanes flying close by.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted the United States will have “very serious” talks with China about militarization of the South China Sea.
“There is every evidence, every day that there has been an increase of militarization of one kind or another. It’s of serious concern,” Kerry told reporters when asked about the reported deployment on Woody Island.
“We have had these conversations with the Chinese and I am confident that over the next days we will have further very serious conversation on this.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the deployment “is consistent with the right to self-protection that China is entitled to under international law so there should be no question about it.”
Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the deployment of missiles to the Paracels would be contrary to China’s pledge not to militarize the region.
“We will conduct more, and more complex, freedom of navigation operations as time goes on in the South China Sea,” Harris said. “We have no intention of stopping.”
Taiwanese President-elect Tsai Ing-wen said “we urge all parties to work on the situation based on principles of peaceful solution and self-control.”
Meanwhile, in a rare move, Vietnam’s prime minister on Feb. 15 pressed U.S. President Barack Obama for a greater U.S. role in preventing militarization and island-building in the South China Sea.