May 29, 2015

US surveillance on China's artificial islands reportedly shows military artillery

U.S. surveillance images reportedly show that China has positioned weaponry on at least one of the artificial islands it is developing in the South China Sea, apparently confirming suspicions that Beijing has been building up the area for military use.
The Wall Street Journal, citing U.S. officials, reported that images taken about a month ago showed two Chinese motorized artillery pieces on one of the artificial reefs. Although the weaponry would not pose a threat to U.S. planes or ships, it could potentially reach neighboring islands.
The Journal reported that in recent weeks the artillery has disappeared from view, though it was not clear how of why. U.S. officials said they believed the equipment had either been removed or purposely obscured by the Chinese.
The American officials said that the artillery, is within striking range of an island claimed by Vietnam, which that country's government has armed with various weaponry for some time.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman maintained the development of the artificial lands was primarily civilian.
“It needs to be emphasized that the Nansha Islands is China’s territory, and China has every right to deploy on relevant islands and reefs necessary facilities for military defense,” spokesman for the Chinese embassy, told the Journal.
On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter strongly defended American military flights over the artificial lands in the South China Sea and called for a “lasting halt” to China’s land reclamation projects.
The Pentagon said in a recent report that the construction could be used for military airstrips, naval ports or to host surveillance systems.

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