Satellite imagery shows that China deployed new weapons, including likely missile systems, and J-11 fighter jets to Woody Island in the Paracels for live fire military exercises in May.
MANILA, Philippines — Following Beijing’s deployment of new weapons to its outposts in the South China Sea, a Pentagon official warned that Washington has the capacity to take down these man-made islands.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., US Department of Defense joint staff director, said that the US has experience in taking down small isolated islands during World War II.
“I would just tell you that the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands,” MacKenzie said in a press briefing Thursday.
MacKenzie, however, clarified that he was not trying to send a message to China but only stating a fact.
“That’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before. You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact,” he said.
Echoing US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ statement earlier this week, MacKenzie stressed that the United States would continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the region.
China, meanwhile, accused the United States of “playing up” the militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying noted that US military presence in the region exceeds China’s military strength.
“We urge certain people in the US to give up all the meaningless hyping up surrounding the situation and do more in a responsible way to enhance trust and cooperation between regional countries and promote regional peace and stability,” Hua said in a press briefing.
Earlier this week, the Chinese Ministry of Defense confirmed that it has deployed warships to warn US Navy warships sailing near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
The US Navy’s USS Antietam and USS Higgins reportedly sailed within 12 nautical miles of four islands in the Paracels while conducting freedom of navigation operations.
“China firmly opposes this. The Chinese army is determined to strengthen the preparations for sea and air combat readiness, raise the level of defense, defend national sovereignty and security, and maintain the determination of regional peace and stability,” Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian said.
The Pentagon had disinvited the Chinese Navy from this year’s Rim of the Pacific Exercises as an “initial response” to Beijing’s recent actions in the South China Sea.
The US said it has strong evidence that China deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to its bases on the Spratly Islands. Washington also expressed concern over Beijing’s landing of an H-6K bomber aircraft on Woody Island, its largest base in the Paracel Islands./ Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – June 1, 2018 – 12:53pm