Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that China has right to build “self-defence” systems in its own territories after satellite images showed two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers and radar system in one of the disputed islands built by China in South China Sea.
Hong Lei, a spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Ministry, stated that any deployment of missiles on China’s own territory would be legitimate saying any facilities built have to do with national defence, not militarization.
On Tuesday, Fox News reported that images from civilian satellite company ImageSat International show two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers as well radar targeting arrays had arrived on Woody Island, the Paracel’s main island.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that reports of the missile deployment had been created by "certain Western media," referring to the United States and Taiwan, the countries that confirmed the “apparent deployment” of missile system.
"We believe this is an attempt by certain Western media to create news stories," Wang told reporters during a press conference held after talks with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop, who urged restraint in the region and called on all sides to settle disputes peacefully.
In an official statement, Chinese Defence Ministry also blamed western media for hyping the issue saying “China's air and naval defensive deployments on the relevant islands and reefs have existed for many years."
The Paracel Islands are China's territory, so China is within its rights to deploy defence facilities there, the ministry added.
China has controlled all of the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, since the mid-1970s and the end of the Vietnam War.
But tensions in the sea -- through which one-third of the world's oil passes -- have mounted in recent months since China transformed contested reefs in the Spratly Islands further south into artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities.
News of the missile deployment came as Obama and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded a summit in California, where they discussed the need to ease tensions in the region but did not include specific mention of China's assertive pursuit of its claims in the South China Sea.
"We discussed the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions including a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas," Obama told a news conference.
The United States has said it will continue conducting "freedom of navigation patrols" by ships and aircraft to assure unimpeded passage through the region, where Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.