China has begun daily civilian charter flights to Woody Island in the disputed South China Sea after approved the airport there for civil operations, state news agency Xinhua said on Thursday.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
The first flight took off on Wednesday from Haikou, the provincial capital of China’s southern island province of Hainan, and will run every day with tickets costing 1,200 yuan ($172.77) one way, Xinhua said.
Woody Island, in the Paracels which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, is the seat of what China calls Sansha city that is its administrative center for the South China Sea.
The airport, which is a joint military-civilian facility, was approved for civilian operations last Friday, Xinhua said.
“This will effectively improve the working and living conditions of civil servants and soldiers based in Sansha city,” the report added.
The flights will leave Haikou airport at 8:45 a.m. and return from Woody Island at 1 p.m., Xinhua said.
China has been building other airfields in the South China Sea as part of a controversial land reclamation program and in July civilian aircraft successfully carried out calibration tests on two new airports in the Spratly Islands, on Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.
China took full control of the Paracels in 1974 after a naval showdown with Vietnam.
Though China calls it a city, Sansha’s permanent population is no more than a few thousand, and many of the disputed islets and reefs in the sea are uninhabited.
In February, Taiwan and U.S. officials said China had deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island.
($1 = 6.9 yuan)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Source: Reuters “China begins daily civil charter flights to South China Sea outpost”
Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
In response to US Fox News report “New evidence of Chinese buildup in the South China Sea” on China deployment of two J-11s and a fire control radar on Woody Island, Chinese Communist Party’s Mouthpiece People’s Daily’s tabloid Global Times published a commentary yesterday on China’s reasons for the deployment.
The commentary says that the deployment of HQ-9 air defense missiles and J-11 fighter jets has been done specially as a show to the US. Since the US sends warships and warplanes near China’s islands to show its muscles, China has to deploy the defensive weapons so that when the US sends warships and warplanes again its warships and warplanes will feel uncomfortable when they come near Chinese weapons.
Fox News video report “New evidence of Chinese buildup in the South China Sea” can be viewed at http://video.foxnews.com/v/4842318684001/new-evidence-of-chinese-buildup-in-the-south-china-sea/?#sp=show-clips
Source: Global Times “Commentary: Appearance of J-11s on Yongxing (Woody) Island, a special show to the US” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the commentary in Chinese)
Beijing is defending the deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles to Woody Island in the South China Sea, according to a Wednesday statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.
“China’s deployment of national defense facilities on its own territory is reasonable and justified,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday.“It has nothing to do with the so-called militarization.”
Last week, several international news outlets reported the Chinese fired an YJ-62 cruise missile from Woody Island based on images that emerged on the Chinese language Internet.
Woody Island is part of China’s disputed holdings in the Paracel Island off the coast of Vietnam. In the last few months, China has moved more offensive military hardware to the chain Beijing has controlled since the early 1970s.
Last month, news broke that China had deployed several HQ-9 anti-air missiles batteries to Woody Island after the U.S. conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FON op) near Chinese holdings at nearby Triton Island.
Then as now, the foreign ministry said moving military kit to Xisha Islands – the Chinese name for the Paracels – were well within their rights and the missiles were for defensive purposes.
News of the new missiles on Woody comes as little surprise to experts who have monitored the military developments in the region over the last several months.
“While the HQ-9 deployment was a big deal because it was the first observation of a major weapon system on Woody Island, the YJ-62 is really the second act that provides an anti-surface capability to complement the HQ-9’s anti-air,” Chris Carlson, a retired U.S. Navy captain and naval analyst told USNI News on Thursday.“In my view, China is making it clear that any attempted intrusion, be it by air or on the ocean surface, will be met by their defenses.”
While in open conflict, the fixed position of the islands would make the missiles easy targets but the weapons could have a coercive effect to China’s neighbors and U.S. operations in peacetime, Bryan Clark, naval analyst Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) and former special assistant to past Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, told USNI News on Wednesday.
“In a conflict, the islands will be hard to defend, but their value is in curtailing U.S. peacetime operations and in the opening moves of a conflict when they can threaten U.S. forces with a surprise attack,” he said.
“If the U.S. deployed similar forces to Palawan [in the Philippines], it could similarly impact [People‘s Liberation Army] operations.”
There is a concern now that China could use the same rationale for deploying offensive weapons on its disputed artificial islands in the Spratly Island chain — closer to the Philippines.
“Chinese activities in the Paracels will likely at least partially presage activities in the Spratlys. Beijing may act as if it is using Paracels-based actions to signal — with the implication that they will deploy infrastructure and systems robustly in the Spratlys only if ‘forced’ to do so because Washington ignored Beijing’s message,” Andrew Erickson, a professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College, told USNI News on Wednesday.
In the last year-and-a half China has stepped up land reclamation efforts in the Spratlys, building facilities that could easily host military equipment.
Source: USNI News “China Defends Deployment of Anti-Ship Missiles to South China Sea Island”
China Deploys Ludun-2000 Short-range Air Defense System on Paracel dated March 30
Photos of Launchs of YJ-62, HQ-9 Missile by Xisha (Paracel) Garrison dated March 30
- Recent imagery suggests China has deployed YJ-62 ASCMs to Woody Island in the Paracels
- The deployment potentially allows China to target any vessel within 400 km of Woody Island
Recent imagery suggests China has significantly enhanced its military capabilities in the South China Sea by deploying the land-based version of the 400 km-range YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) to Woody Island in the Paracel Islands.
Posted on 20 March 2016 on the popular Weibo blog, the image of a launching YJ-62 ASCM is consistent with photos copied from one of the many monthly Chinese military magazines that appear on Chinese military issue web pages. The image of the launching ASCM also shows a radar dome that the Chinese blogger makes a strong case for being on Woody Island.
The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) YJ-62 was likely deployed at about the same time the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system was first detected on the island in February 2016.
A land-based version of the YJ-62 has been deployed by the Coastal Defence troops of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) since about 2008. Three YJ-62 ASCMs are carried on a CASIC-Sanjiang transporter-erector-launcher (TEL).
First seen in model form in 2006 under its export designation C-602, the YJ-62 also arms the Type 052C destroyer launched in 2003. Chinese brochures credit the C-602 with a range of 280 km, while the version in service with the PLAN is estimated to have at least a 400 km range.
The anti-ship version of the YJ-62 is cued by long-range radar or data from aircraft or satellites, then uses an internal nose-mounted radar for terminal guidance.
At the 2012 Zhuhai Airshow CASIC introduced the 290 km-range CM-602G land-attack variant, which has a 480 kg warhead as opposed to the 300 kg warhead carried by the C-602.
Source: IHS Jane’s 360 “Imagery suggests China has deployed YJ-62 anti-ship missiles to Woody Island”
The Diplomat says in its report on March 7 titled “Satellite Imagery: China Expands Land Filling at North Island in the Paracels”, “Satellite imagery from March 2, 2016 shows a marked expansion of China’s dredging and land filling at North Island in the Paracels.”
The dredging did not begin until January 2016 and the report says, land reclaimed links North Island with Middle Island to accommodate a runway. The report believes that China may build an airstrip there though there is an airfield in nearby Woody Island. China will have three airstrips in the Spratlys. Two in the Paracels are not too many.
Source: The Diplomat “Satellite Imagery: China Expands Land Filling at North Island in the Paracels”
Full text of the report can be viewed at http://thediplomat.com/2016/03/satellite-imagery-china-expands-land-filling-at-north-island-in-the-paracels/
It is common sense that China’s construction of artificial islands with large airports on them are for military purposes. No one is so stupid as to build such expensive civil airports on such small islands without civilian population. China does not militarize the islands now because it does not want to upset the US or scare its neighbors.
It will militarize them now if it has justified excuse. Now it seems the US is providing China with such excuse by sending its B-52 bombers and warships near those islands. That is why I wrote the post titled “Puzzle: Does the US Want China to Militarize Its Artificial Islands” on February 12.
Now according to Fox News’ exclusive report, China has indeed deployed HQ-9 air defense missiles on the reclaimed land on Woody Island. It has the excuse that since the US has sent its B-52 bombers to fly over its artificial island, it has to deploy air defense system to protect its garrison and residents there.
We can foresee that China will build radar to detect and track warships and warplanes and underwater anti-submarine systems on its artificial islands since the US has sent its warships into the waters close to the islands.
I do not know US intention. Does it want to take the risk to test whether China will shoot down US warplanes with its HQ-9 missile? In such case, what will be US response? War or sanction? When Russia invaded Ukraine, the US took the lead to impose sanctions on Russia but failed to stop Russia. Instead, emboldened by US inability, Russia began to take an active part in the war in Syria. Can sanction bring China to its knees? It is first of all a question how many countries will join the US in imposing the sanction. As for war, is the US prepared for a war with China now?
The following is the full text of Fox News’ report:
Exclusive: China sends surface-to-air missiles to contested island in provocative move
The Chinese military has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of its contested islands in the South China Sea according to civilian satellite imagery exclusively obtained by Fox News, more evidence that China is increasingly “militarizing” its islands in the South China Sea and ramping up tensions in the region.
The imagery from ImageSat International (ISI) shows two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea.
It is the same island chain where a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed close to another contested island a few weeks ago. China at the time vowed “consequences” for the action.
Woody Island is also claimed by Taiwan and by Vietnam.
Diagram including a satellite image of the beach from Feb. 14. (ImageSat International)
The missiles arrived over the past week. According to the images, a beach on the island was empty on Feb. 3, but the missiles were visible by Feb. 14.
A U.S. official confirmed the accuracy of the photos. The official said the imagery viewed appears to show the HQ-9 air defense system, which closely resembles Russia’s S-300 missile system. The HQ-9 has a range of 125 miles, which would pose a threat to any airplanes, civilians or military, flying close by.
This comes as President Obama hosts 10 leaders from Southeast Asia — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Bruneil, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia — in Palm Springs, many of those leaders concerned over China’s recent activity in the South China Sea. “The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Obama said Tuesday.
Images of the Woody Island beach on Feb. 14 (left) and Feb. 3. (ImageSat International)
The Pentagon was watching the developments closely, a defense official told Fox News. “The United States continues to call on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction, and militarization of features in the South China Sea,” the official said.
In the past two years, China has built over 3,000 acres of territory atop seven reefs in the area. There are a total of three runways built on three of the artificial islands.
This development comes weeks after the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea.
The incident drew strong condemnation from China’s defense ministry who vowed there would be consequences.
A Chinese military spokesman said the U.S. warship “violated Chinese law” and was a “deliberate provocation.” The Chinese issued warnings to the U.S. ship and “expelled it swiftly,” according to a statement from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. The U.S. Navy denied that any warnings took place.
The statement from the Chinese defense ministry warned sailing that close to the island “may cause extremely dangerous consequences.”
The incident in the South China Sea in late January came days after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing to discuss regional issues including China’s contested islands in the South China Sea.
During a press conference in Beijing with Kerry, China’s foreign minister pledged not to “militarize” the disputed islands.
“China has given a commitment of not engaging in so-called militarization, and we will honor that commitment. And we cannot accept the allegation that China’s words are not being matched by actions,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
But Wang left himself some diplomatic space for the deployment of weapons to protect the islands. “There are some necessary facilities for self-defense,” he added.
Kerry said the United States “does not take sides on the sovereignty questions underlying the territorial disputes.”
But his Chinese counterpart was less ambiguous.
“I pointed out to Secretary Kerry that the South China Sea Islands have historically been China’s territory. China has a right to protect its own territorial sovereignty,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
In early January, China tested one of the runways by landing two civilian airliners on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly island chain of islands. Pentagon officials are concerned that military aircraft could be next.
Monday, the commander of the Navy’s 7th fleet, responsible for the waters of the western Pacific, told reporters, “We are unsure where they are taking us,” and urged Beijing to be more open with its military operations.
It could relieve “some of the angst we are now seeing,” Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin said, pledging that the U.S. military would continue to conduct freedom of operations missions close to the contested Chinese islands, including flying aircraft overhead.
Source: FoxNews.com “Exclusive: China sends surface-to-air missiles to contested island in provocative move”
Chinese oil major Sinopec is building a filling station on an island in the South China Sea, as China continues to expand its civilian infrastructure in the disputed waterway, entrenching its reach in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
The filling station and accompanying storage tank on Woody Island in the Paracels will take a year to complete, the company, whose listed flagship is Sinopec Corp, said on its microblog on Monday.
Woody Island has a population of roughly 1,000 and Chinese travel agents began offering five-day cruises to the Paracels, a cluster of close to 40 islets, outcrops and reefs in 2013.
The filling station and storage tank will satisfy fuel needs in Chinese-controlled islands and reefs in the South China Sea over the next few years, the post said.
“Nouveaux riches, go fishing in Sansha city, and remember to bring your filling card,” it quipped, referring to an outpost in the South China Sea centered around Woody Island.
China took full control of the Paracels in 1974 after a naval showdown with the South Vietnamese, and there have been incidents ever since. Taiwan also claims the Paracels.
China claims almost all of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
The United States has criticized Beijing’s building of artificial islands in the disputed Spratly archipelago, south of the Paracels, and has conducted sea and air patrols near them.
China’s navy has in recent days carried out more exercises in the disputed waterway, the country’s defense ministry said on Sunday, calling them routine drills.
(Reporting By Adam Rose; Editing by Michael Perry)
Source: Reuters “China’s Sinopec building filling station in disputed South China Sea”