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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

China Further Militarizes China Sea Artificial Islands

By Douglas V. Gibbs
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In an obvious attempt to be provocative, testing the limits of their enemies, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea.  According to Reuters, China appears to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands, as evidenced by imagery retrieved by satellites.

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

AMTI has been watching the construction of the hexagonal structures since June and July. China has already built military length airstrips on some of the islands.

AMTI director Greg Poling said AMTI had spent months trying to figure out what the purposes of the structures was.

"This is the first time that we're confident in saying they are anti-aircraft and CIWS emplacements. We did not know that they had systems this big and this advanced there," he told Reuters.

"This is militarization. The Chinese can argue that it's only for defensive purposes, but if you are building giant anti-aircraft gun and CIWS emplacements, it means that you are prepping for a future conflict.

"They keep saying they are not militarizing, but they could deploy fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles tomorrow if they wanted to," he said. "Now they have all the infrastructure in place for these interlocking rings of defense and power projection."The report said the installations would likely back up a defensive umbrella provided by a future deployment of mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) platforms like the HQ-9 system deployed to Woody Island in the Paracel Islands, farther to the north in the South China Sea.

China has said military construction on the islands will be limited to necessary defensive requirements.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has many times criticized Chinese behavior in the South China Sea while signaling he may adopt a tougher approach to China's assertive behavior in the region than President Barack Obama.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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