What China’s reported missiles in Spratlys mean for PH
China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its biggest outposts in the Spratlys in the South China Sea, a US-based news agency reported.
The CNBC, quoting US intelligence sources, said the missiles were moved to Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef within the past 30 days.
Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef) is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The CNBC said the YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles will allow China to strike vessels within 295 nautical miles. The HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missiles could target aircraft, drones and cruise missiles within 160 nautical miles.
If confirmed, this would mark the first reported presence of missiles in the disputed seas, which is also claimed by Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.
The report said that the same weapons have also appeared in Woody Island in the Paracels, China’s military headquarters there.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that jamming equipment was deployed early this year in Fiery Cross and Mischief Reefs, a move seen to enforce China’s claims and a step further in its militarization of the region.
It won’t be long enough when China will deploy fighter planes in the contested waterway, a security expert said.
“China’s deployments and activity in the Paracels have served as a blueprint for what they are doing in Spratlys. HQ-9B SAMs are but one example. Next will be fighters and establishment of baselines,” Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies posted on Twitter.
Technically, the report means that China has deployed weapons on the Philippine EEZ, said Alexander Neill, Shangri-la Dialogue senior fellow for Asia Pacific security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Based on the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016, the Philippines has sovereign rights over Mischief Reef. China has refused to recognize the verdict.
“In practice, China now has the capability to deny the Philippines access in the air or at sea to the islands and reefs it claims,” Neill told the Inquirer. /je
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