Chinese forces recently installed surface-to-air missile systems (SAMS) on three Philippine-claimed reefs in the West Philippine Sea, otherwise known as South China Sea.
The Philippine government stated that they still have to verify the report because they do not have the surveillance resources for that purpose.
“We are concerned…that China, takes an aggressive unilateral action toward militarization,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim told media.
Kim spoke after the US network CNBC, said China had deployed anti-ship missiles and SAMS on Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban, three of seven Philippine-claimed reefs that China had seized and transformed into artificial islands.
The three reefs are internationally known as Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs, respectively. They are among the marine features in the Spratly archipelago that are disputed by China and the Philippines.
Taiwan also claims all of the Spratlys, an archipelago of about 100 islets, reefs and atolls in the middle of the South China Sea.
The installation of the missiles would mark the first Chinese missile deployments in the Spratlys.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying neither confirmed nor denied the deployment.
“China’s peaceful construction in the Spratly archipelago, including the deployment of necessary national defence facilities, is aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security,” Hua said. “Those who don’t intend to violate [this sovereignty] have no reason to worry,” she said.
Malacañang said it had no information about the missile deployment, said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
Quoting sources from the Pentagon, the Wall Street Journal reported that jamming equipment were deployed on Kagitingan and Panganiban. It was further reported that two Chinese military planes landed on Panganiban reef earlier this year.
The United States, Ambassador Kim said, continues to send its warships to the region “to display the nature of its relationship with the Philippines and their shared maritime concerns.”
Kim cited recent visits to the region of US aircraft carriers Carl Vinson and Theodore Roosevelt. He said the warships’ visits demonstrated the US commitment to its alliance with the Philippines to protect the freedoms of navigation, overflight and commerce in the South China Sea.
US not taking sides
The United States takes no sides in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but has expressed interest in the peaceful settlement of the rival claims.
CNBC said the YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles would allow China to strike vessels within 550 kilometres. It said the HQ-9B long-range SAM could target aircraft, drones and cruise missiles within 300 kilometers. (Source: Reuters)