WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- China’s increased militarization in the Spratlys has been a growing issue for the countries near the South China Sea, especially since it’s a vital shipping channel also believed to have significant natural gas and oil deposits.
- China’s land-reclamation and militarization have consisted of developing communications and radar systems on the islands, as well as air bases.
- The U.S. has warned China that there will be “consequences” for its actions especially with reports that it has moved missiles to the Spratlys.
Washington has already “raised concerns directly with the Chinese … and there will be near-term and long-term consequences,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated in a news briefing last Thursday regarding China’s militarization of the South China Sea.
This was in response to a CNBC report regarding China’s installation of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of the Spratly Islands, which were fortified outposts located west of the Philippines. China ’s aircraft carrier Liaoning was even seen conducting drills with fighter jets in the area.
The said missiles could incite renewed tensions as these would be the first weapons deployed in the islands, over which nearby countries Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Brunei have claims to sovereignty.
In addition to not denying the reports, a foreign ministry spokeswoman told reporters Thursday that “the deployment of necessary national defense facilities are meant to safeguard China’s sovereignty and security” since Beijing has “indisputable sovereignty” over the islands. She added that “The relevant deployment targets no one.”
In spite of its clearly growing militarization, Beijing refuted a State Department complaint that it was responsible for shining lasers into the eyes of U.S. pilots landing nearby a Chinese military base in Djibouti, an east African nation used by American forces involved in the war on terror.
The Pentagon stated that because of the lasers pointed at their aircraft, “two pilots in a C-130 suffered minor eye injuries.”
Meanwhile, a defense ministry spokesman argued that the Pentagon’s complaint was “completely inconsistent with the facts.” He added, “We have refuted the false accusations from the U.S. side through official channels. China has always strictly abided by international law … and is committed to maintaining regional security and stability.”
Relations between the two countries have been strained following President Donald Trump’s decision to slap up to $50 billion worth of tariffs on China. China has also been asked by the Trump administration to reduce its trade deficit with the U.S. by $200 billion by the end of 2020.
Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary, stated that he and other members of the U.S. delegation have been “having very good conversations with the Chinese” with regard to the talks on resolving the trade dispute.
China’s state news agency Xinhua has also stated that while the two sides had “relatively big differences over some issues,” they still “reached consensus in some areas.”
Source: NBC News