China defended its right to deploy “necessary defense equipment” to disputed islands in the South China Sea Thursday.
“China appears to have built significant point-defense capabilities, in the form of large anti-aircraft guns and probable close-in weapons systems (CIWS), at each of its outposts in the Spratly Islands,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) revealed in a report released Tuesday.
“We did not know that they had systems this big and this advanced there,” director of AMTI Greg Poling told Reuters Wednesday.
“I want to reiterate that the South China Sea islands belong to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang argued Thursday.
“It is perfectly normal for China to build defense facilities on its own territory,” Geng added. “This is the normal right of a sovereign state as recognized by international law.”
China’s claims to the South China Sea, which are embodied by its nine-dashed line, were discredited in July after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled against it.
China rejected the ruling, as well as the authority of the arbitration tribunal.
“China does not intend to pursue militarization” in the South China Sea, Chinese President Xi Jinping said publicly in September 2015.
The defense systems detected in satellite photos by AMTI are not dual-use systems, such as airstrips and ports, but are military installations.
“China’s deployment of necessary defense equipment to its own territories has absolutely nothing to do with militarization,” Geng explained.
“If China’s building of normal facilities and deploying necessary territorial defensive facilities on its own islands is considered militarization, then what is the sailing of fleets into the South China Sea?” he asked, referring to American freedom-of-navigation operations.
Geng stated that China is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and put the burden of guilt for escalation and a rise in tensions on the U.S.
“If somebody is flexing their muscles on your doorstep, can’t you at least get a slingshot?” he asked. “The necessary military installations are mainly for self-defense and are fair and legal.”
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