Home » News & Analysis » Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Defends South China Sea Anti-Air Missile Deployment, PACOM CO Harris Expresses Concern

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Defends South China Sea Anti-Air Missile Deployment, PACOM CO Harris Expresses Concern

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

China’s foreign minster Wang Yi defended the People’s Liberation Army deployment of 32 anti-air missiles to a disputed South China Sea Island saying Beijing was well within its rights to send out the batteries.

Wang told reporters in Beijing on Thursday the recent deployment of the HQ-9 missiles on Woody Island was “consistent with the right to self-preservation and self-protection that China is entitled to under international law, so there should be no question about that,” following a meeting with Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop on South China Sea issues.

Wang instead played up the “positive role” of its developments in the region and added “we believe this is an attempt by certain Western media to create news stories.”

Fox News broke the story of the missile deployments to Woody Island — in the Paracel island chain off Vietnam — on Tuesday.
Speaking with reporters in Tokyo on Thursday, U.S. Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris said the presence of the missiles on the island “could be an indication of militarization of the South China Sea in ways that the president of China, that [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] said he would not do.”

Pentagon officials repeated the U.S. universal call for South China Sea disputes to be resolved diplomatically.

“The United Sates continues to call on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction and militarization of features in the South China Sea,” read a late Tuesday statement provided to USNI News from the Department of Defense.

Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) issued a statement critical of the missile placement on Woody Island on Thursday.

“China’s actions in the South China Sea this week demonstrate Beijing’s continued desire to resort to militarization and coercion to achieve its maritime sovereignty goals and President Xi Jinping’s cavalier disregard for his public commitments to the United States,” read the statement.
“Despite making claims months ago that China had halted its unprecedented reclamation and would not militarize features in the South China Sea, we now have a growing set of examples of the emptiness of Beijing’s words.”

What’s on Woody?


The satellite imagery published by Fox News shows the launchers and radar systems consistent with the HQ-9 mobile AAW launchers. The missiles – based on the Russian S-300PMU (NATO reporting name SA-10B Grumble) – have a range of about 120 miles and can travel at Mach 4.2

“The vehicles that are assessed to be erected launchers in the image are consistent with other Google Earth images of a production facility outside of Beijing,” naval analyst and retired U.S. Navy Capt. Chris Carlson told USNI News on Tuesday.
“It does indeed look like two firing batteries of four launchers each for the 100-km-range HQ-9 were moved to Woody Island within the past couple of weeks.”

The deployment of the HQ-9s follow a November deployment of People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Shenyang J-11 fighters to Woody and growing concerns that military movement in the South China Sea may back up a planned future air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the region or other restrictions to movement.

In 2013, China declared an ADIZ over the East China Sea a move contested by the U.S. and its neighbors. Shortly after, the PLA moved fighters to newly built airstrips in the East China Sea to enforce the ADIZ restrictions.

A Chinese HQ-9 missile launcher painted in the livery of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). PLAN Photo

A Chinese HQ-9 missile launcher painted in the livery of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). PLAN Photo

If China were to do the same in the South China Sea – where territorial claims and sovereignty are heavily disputed – Beijing would be in violation of international law.

While it’s not a violation of international law to place defense systems on a country’s territory – albeit contested — using those weapons as an “implicit threat” to international territory is inconsistent with international law, ,” James Kraska, professor in the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the Naval War College, told USNI News on Thursday.
“If China use [the missiles] to enforce an air defense identification zone or enforce other restrictions on international aviation is unlawful.”

The news of the HQ-9s comes less than a month after a U.S. freedom of navigation operation (FONop) by a U.S. guided missile destroyer that came within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels and a week after a new report indicated China was expanding military installations in the island chain.

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Categories: News & Analysis
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • Curtis Conway

    Given the ‘Island Building’, and new ASW Helo Base . . . the Chinese have demonstrated themselves disingenuous . . . this, and more, will become a ‘fait accompli’ with time. This administration’s Foreign Policy in the Asia Region (which they have touted recently in the news as being their primary distraction) has been a chess game in which our side has been two moves behind at every turn. In fact, this administrations grade for effective Foreign Policy is failing in every region, save perhaps Africa, where it would not get over a D in my grading system.

    • sferrin

      “With time”? It’s a done deal. Washington doesn’t have the spine to do anything about it and nobody else in the area will do anything while the US sits on it’s hands.

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    about 500 km due east the coast of Vietnam near Hue city. a little farther due west from Leyte island. right smack in the middle of the sea lanes. Great position. bet Vietnam is not happy about that. Area denied weapon system??

  • publius_maximus_III

    New name for PLAN’s Spratly outpost: Fantasy Island. When they get their HQ-9’s the radar operators can shout, “De plane, Boss, de plane.”

  • publius_maximus_III

    Nice sized airstrip, too. Go to BING maps, search on WOODY ISLAND, PARACEL ISLANDS, go to Bird’s Eye view, and hit zoom.

    The PLAN appears to have a plan: deploying stationary aircraft carriers throughout the South China Sea. No escort vessels required, and fuel costs beat even that of a nuclear reactor…

    • Secundius

      @ publius_maximus_III

      PRC-PLAN records claim 2,700-meters long…

  • Bill

    Are we sure it’s not just a bunch of oil barrels welded end to end?

  • Lou Mcintosh

    If we happened to run some soon-to-be-decommissioned aircraft carrier aground on one of the available shoals in the area — accidentally, of course! — and immediately promised an all-out 20-year effort to refloat it, I wonder how PRC would respond diplomatically. It would become the easiest carrier in the world to land on, and could be resupplied by sea … what a shame that the Skipper ran the old girl aground two days before his retirement.

    • Mysterre

      All the “shoals” that could possibly have been occupied have been occupied by all the claimants.