China has deployed anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles in at least four locations among its military installations in the South China Sea, it was confirmed this week.
This would, in all probability, allow Beijing to further project its power in the South China Sea.
Satellite images of Woody Island, Beijing's military headquarters in the South China Sea, show deployments of Y-8 transport aircraft as well as J-10 and J-11 fighter jets.
While Washington takes no position on the sovereignty claims, it has raised concerns that Beijing is "militarising" the South China Sea. "And there will be near-term and long-term consequences", Sanders told reporters, responding to a question on the Chinese military build up in the South China Sea and other parts of the world. China asserts its exclusive territorial claims and sovereignty in the South China Sea.
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China previously deployed short-range missiles and point-defense systems like anti-aircraft guns and close-in-weapons-systems to the islands, created to defeat incoming missiles.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying had said in her daily press briefing her nation has been involved in peaceful construction in the islands, which includes "the deployment of necessary national defence facilities".
He also named developments in Djibouti - where China opened its first overseas military base previous year - and at the ports of Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan, as well as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, as "predatory economic activities".
Reports cited United States intelligence assessments that the missiles were deployed to (Kagitingan) Fiery Cross Reef, (Zamora) Subi Reef and (Panganiban) Mischief Reef within the past 30 days.
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Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said: "They are very serious incidents".
China yesterday defended the deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems in the disputed waters, saying it has "indisputable sovereignty" over the area. China claims nearly all of South China Sea. And it's in their interest to ensure that there's a free navigation of global waters, she said. They are all located in the Spratlys archipelago, which is located east of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and far south of mainland China.
Duterte also said that China had already started building its installations in the Spratlys during the time of his predecessor, and that the Philippines' closest ally, the United States, did nothing to stop it.
China occupies seven features in the Spratly Islands, and since 2013, it has reclaimed over 3,000 acres of land to build military bases and port facilities on.
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They would be the first Chinese missile deployments in the Spratlys, where several Asian countries including Vietnam and Taiwan have rival claims.