Friday 9 December 2016

China flexes military muscle at US

Charlotte Middlehurst in Shanghai

Published 30/05/2015 | 02:30

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, in this file still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft and provided by the United States Navy. Photo: Reuters
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, in this file still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft and provided by the United States Navy. Photo: Reuters

China sent a pointed signal this week by parading its military might through the capital of Hainan Island, the province located closest to the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

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The demonstration followed an incident last week when a Chinese warship delivered a verbal warning to an American reconnaissance aircraft carrying a CNN crew who were filming China's construction of artificial islands in the contested Spratly chain.

The "Patriotism National Defence Weapons Exhibition" took place on Wednesday in Haikou, the capital of Hainan. The weapons on display - supposedly developed by China within the last 20 years - included a J-10 jet fighter, a WZ-10 helicopter gunship and an amphibious light tank.

Hainan's position off China's southern coast means the island would be the primary base for military operations in the event of war in the South China Sea.

Phoenix News, a Chinese state website, said that the show was well attended and "displayed the nation's prestige".

China has laid claim to 90pc of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. The country's claims overlap with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has begun constructing artificial islands on the Spratly chain, located almost 1,000km from its coastline. Neighbouring states fear these projects could be the basis for naval or other military facilities.

But the Communist Party has shrugged off the possible military significance of its island-building programmes, comparing them to road-building schemes in China and implying that the US is "deliberately playing up the issue" in order to raise tensions.

But US surveillance has detected two motorised artillery pieces positioned on one artificial island, built in the Spratly chain by China about one month ago. While the weapons would likely not pose a threat to US planes or ships, they could reach neighbouring islands.

"We watch every outpost in the South China Sea carefully and monitor the actions of the countries concerned," said John Kirby, a US State Department spokesman. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has repeatedly warned of the dangers of any country carrying out building projects that change the status quo in disputed waters.

"I can assure you that Secretary Kerry is in touch with the claimants, including China, and has been very clear in warning against actions that escalate tensions," added Mr Kirby. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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