US slams ‘militarisation’ of disputed South China Sea

US Defence Department urges parties involved in South China Sea territorial dispute to halt militarisation as China deploys missile systems on one of disputed islands

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Aerial view of the city of Sansha on Woody island in the disputed Paracel chain

United States Defence Department on Wednesday said China’s deployment of surface-to-air-missile system on a disputed island in the South China Sea was increasing tensions in the region and called on all claimants of South China Sea to halt ‘militarization’ of the disputed Islands.

The Pentagon stated that all parties in the region should address their territorial and maritime claims with accordance to the international law and added that the dispute between sides should be managed and resolved peacefully.

"We call on South China Sea claimants to publicly commit to a reciprocal halt to further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and new militarization of disputed features," said Navy Commander Bill Urban, a spokesman for the Pentagon.

In a separate interview another US official, Secretary of State John Kerry slammed Beijing for deploying surface-to-air missiles on South China Sea's Woody Island.

"There is every evidence, every day, that there has been an increase of militarisation of one kind or another. It's of a serious concern," Kerry told reporters on Wednesday.

Experts say the surface-to-air SAM missiles of China could be used to target enemy aircraft.

Kerry said “the South China Sea should not be militarised,” and he underlined that this standard should be applied to all countries.

Kerry recalled that during a state visit to Washington last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed not to militarize the disputed waters.

However, on the same day China reacted the comments of ‘militarization’ stating that it was within its right to deploy any missiles on ‘China’s own territory’. Hong Lei, a spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Ministry said facilities built in South China Sea were built for national defence, not militarization.

Chinese Defence Ministry also released a statement blaming western media for hyping the issue. “China's air and naval defensive deployments on the relevant islands and reefs have existed for many years." the statement said.

Tensions in the disputed islands on South China Sea have increased in the recent months after China transformed contested reefs in the Spratly Islands into artificial landmass capable of supporting military facilities.


TRTWorld and agencies