By Hai Do
04 May, 2018

The United States has raised concerns with China about its latest missile deployment in the South China Sea.

On Wednesday, the U.S. news network CNBC reported China had installed missile systems on three man-made islands in the South China Sea. The report did not name the source but said the information came from U.S. intelligence.

When asked about the report, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, "We're well aware of China's militarization of the South China Sea. We've raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this and there will be near-term and long-term consequences."

Sanders did not say what the consequences might be.

CNBC reported the missiles were moved to the Spratlys within the past 30 days to Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs. The area is about 216 kilometers from the Philippines, well within Manila's Exclusive Economic Zone.

The network said the YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles permitted China to strike vessels within 295 nautical miles. It said the HQ-9B long-range, surface-to-air missiles could target aircraft, drones and cruise missiles within 160 nautical miles.

They would be the first Chinese missile deployments in the Spratlys, where Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims.

An aerial view of China occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Francis Malasig/Pool
An aerial view of China occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Francis Malasig/Pool

Last month, U.S. Admiral Philip Davidson said China could use its "forward operating bases" in the South China Sea to challenge the U.S. regional presence and "would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea claimants."

China's defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Its foreign ministry said China has sovereignty over the Spratlys and the deployments were for national security needs and not aimed at any country.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying added, "Those who do not intend to be aggressive have no need to be worried or scared."

On Friday, a spokesman for the Philippines said, "With our recently developed close relationship and friendship with China, we are confident that those missiles are not directed at us." He added that the country "would explore all diplomatic means to address this issue."

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the report, if accurate, would be a concern. And the actions would go against China's stated desire not to militarize areas under its control.

Eric Sayers is an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He called the missile deployment "a major escalation."

He said the U.S. response could be to cancel the invitation for China to join the multi-national naval exercises in Hawaii in July.

Sayers said, "China sees its participation in the exercise as a sign of its acceptance among the world's maritime powers."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Reuters news report. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

consequence - n. something that happens as a result of a particular action or set of conditions

exclusive - adj. not shared : available to only one person or group

vessel - n. a ship or large boat

nautical - adj. relating to ships and sailing

sovereignty - n. a country's independent authority and the right to govern itself

intend - v. to plan or want to do

escalation - n. increase

maritime - adj. of or relating to the sea