Daily Management Review

China 'Challenged' South China Sea Missile Report says Australia


China 'Challenged' South China Sea Missile Report says Australia
While saying that any militarization would be a concern, China has "challenged" reports that it deployed advanced surface-to-air missiles to a disputed island in the South China Sea, said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Thursday.
Woody Island in the Paracels chain, which has been under Chinese control for decades, but is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam is the present centre point of controversy as Taiwan's Defence Ministry said the missile batteries had been set up on the disputed Island.
The "apparent deployment" of the missiles that was first reported by Fox News has been confirmed by a U.S. defense official.
The issue of the South China Sea's militarization was raised by Bishop who was the first senior Western official to visit China since the missile reports.
"President Xi said in Washington last year that China did not intend to militarize the islands and we certainly hold China to that and that's been reiterated to me," she told reporters, after meeting China's top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi.
 "In the case of the surface-to-air missile claim, that's disputed by China. We raised the matter and we've had a discussion about it," Bishop added.
"No, they did not deny, but nor did they admit that there were. It was challenged. The reports were challenged. The point about the surface-to-air missiles is in dispute, so until such time as we have a clear picture of it, of course it's a matter of concern," she said when she was pressed on whether China was denying the presence of missiles.
South China Sea is a major transit route through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year and most of it is claimed by China.  
However rival claims have also been put up by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Saying China has a legitimate right to military facilities on territory it views as its own, the Chinese government has offered few specific details in response to the missiles claim. It has also accused the Western media of "hyping up" the story.
While repeating that China has had defense facilities on the islands for decades, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei would also neither confirm nor deny if the missiles were on Woody Island.
China has built artificial islands in the Spratly islands chain farther south in the South China Sea and it has most recently been angered by air and sea patrols the United States has conducted near artificial islands including some by two B-52 strategic bombers in November.
The move by a U.S. Navy destroyer that sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels was termed as provocative by China.
The influential state-run tabloid, the Global Times, wrote in an editorial on Thursday that China needs to strengthen its "self-defense" in the South China Sea in the face of "more frequent provocations from the U.S. military".
"Jet fighters from the United States, an outside country, may feel uneasy when making provocative flights in the region. To us, that's a proper result," it said of the reported missile deployment.