February 24, 2016 – China is “changing the operational landscape” in the South China Sea by deploying missiles and radar as part of an effort to militarily dominate East Asia, a senior U.S. military official said yesterday.
China is “clearly militarising the South China (Sea),” said Admiral Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, adding: “You’d have to believe in a flat Earth to think otherwise.”
Harris said he believed China’s deployment of surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the South China Sea’s Paracel chain, new radars on Cuarteron Reef in the Spratlys and its building of airstrips were “actions that are changing in my opinion the operational landscape in the South China Sea.”
Soon after he spoke, U.S. government sources confirmed that China recently deployed fighter jets to Woody Island. It was not the first time Beijing sent jets there but it raised new questions about its intentions.
U.S. Navy Captain Darryn James, spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command, said China’s repeated deployment of advanced fighter aircraft to Woody Island continued a disturbing trend.
“These destabilising actions are inconsistent with the commitment by China and all claimants to exercise restraint from actions that could escalate disputes,” he said. “That’s why we’ve called for all claimants to stop land reclamation, stop construction and stop militarization in the South China Sea.”
But U.S. and Chinese foreign ministers signalled that despite disagreements over the South China Sea, they were near agreement on a U.N. resolution against North Korea for its recent nuclear and missile tests and stressed their cooperation on economic and other issues.