At a time when China praised North Korea for its commitment for denuclearisation and peace and also reset a disturbed relationship with India, Beijing has reportedly installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its guarded outposts in the South China Sea, west of the Philippines. According to a report in CNBC, China has made the move quietly to project its power in of the most disputed zones in international affairs and it cited sources that have direct knowledge of US intelligence reports.
As per CNBC, the intelligence said the missile platforms were shifted to the outposts in the Spratly Islands within the last one month. It cited sources who divulged the information seeking anonymity.
The shifting of the weapons comes in the wake of China's recent installation of military jamming devices in the South China Sea that aim at nullifying communications and radar systems, CNBC said, adding: "By all accounts, the new coastal defense systems represent a significant addition to Beijing's military portfolio in one of the most contested regions in the world".
The US, though neutral, was worried over the latest developments. Speaking to CNBC, a Pentagon official said the US have "consistently" asked China and other claimants not to resort to reclaiming more land, set up fresh facilities, militarise disputed features and to show commitment towards managing and resolving disputes peacefully among themselves.
The US said China's increasing militarisation of the outposts would only raise tension among the claimants.
CNBC said the intelligence indicated that the deployment of the defensive weapons was made on the Spratly Islands' Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef. As many as six nations lay claim over the Spratly Islands and China's militarisation will certainly intensify the rivalry in the region.
The land-based anti-ship missiles called YJ-12B can empower China to hit surface vessels within 295 nautical miles of the reefs while the surface-to-air missiles designated as HQ-9B can target aircraft besides nullifying drones and cruise missiles within 160 nautical miles, the CNBC report said.
The CNBC also said that China's latest military installations were also caught in satellite images of Woody Island, the country's military headquarters in the Paracel Islands located nearby.