China might accelerate its military build-up if the United States makes more “provocative” military moves in the South China Sea in the wake of an international tribunal ruling, military experts said. Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said China had prepared a series of military options in response to rulings made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague over the contentious South China Sea case brought by Manila against Beijing. On Tuesday morning, photographs were posted on mainland military website Haohanfw.com showing China’s fourth 054D-type guided-missile destroyer Yinchuan joining the Hainan-based South Sea Fleet at 9am, just hours before the tribunal announced its rulings. The Yinchuan joined three other 054D destroyers – the Hefei, the Kunming and the Changsha – which were assigned to the South Sea Fleet over the last two years. As one of the most advanced Chinese surface warfare ships, the 054D, or Luyang-III class, destroyers are equipped with a long-range variant of the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile with a range of 80 nautical miles, posing a potential threat to US aircraft carriers. Massive blow: South China Sea ruling takes direct aim at Beijing’s sweeping claims Also on Tuesday, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that two new airports on Mischief and Subi reefs, two of Beijing’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, were capable of handling civilian flights like the mid-size business Cessna CE-680 airplane. That suggests the facilities could handle China’s newest home-grown Y-20 military transport aircraft, which went into service last week. More advanced weapons will show up in the South China Sea after the tribunal’s rulings Beijing-based military expert Li Jie “More advanced weapons will show up in the South China Sea after the tribunal’s rulings,” Li said. He said other military options included the announcement of an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, ramped up construction of artificial islands in the Spratlys, land reclamation in the Scarborough Shoal, more large-scale joint naval drills in the contested waters as well as sophisticated aero-naval weapons tests. “The Chinese leadership will decide which military options should be taken based on how provocatively the US challenges China’s national sovereignty in the aftermath of the rulings over the South China Sea,” Li said. “China might announce an ADIZ in the region if the Pentagon steps up its military presence in the name of the so-called freedom-of-navigation operations by sending more large warships and aircraft.” Multimedia special: 70 years of construction, conflict and combat on the South China Sea The US sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance to join two destroyers, the USS Stethem and USS Momsen, to conduct patrols within 14 to 20 nautical miles of islands at the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands last month, the US’ Navy Times reported last week, citing an unnamed US defence official. As Beijing considers any US patrols within 12 nautical miles of the islands as an intrusion into its territorial waters, military experts said patrols outside the limit would minimise the risk of confrontation between Chinese and US navies. This suggested the Pentagon was also carefully managing the issue, analysts said. The key message of the exercises is to show China has become more confident and capable of defending its core interests in the waters Beijing-based military expert Song Zhongping Besides the three US destroyers, two carrier groups centred on the USS Ronald Reagan and USS John Stennis, had been in the South China Sea since last year, but the latter left on July 5 after a seven-month deployment, according to the US Navy. It is not clear if the Pentagon will send another carrier group. The People’s Liberation Army Navy also conducted week-long joint naval drills around the disputed Paracel Islands involving in three of its fleets. The drills ended on Monday, a day before the court ruling but the Chinese defence ministry said the PLA drills and the tribunal’s decision were not related. “The key message of the exercises is to show China has become more confident and capable of defending its core interests in the waters,” Beijing-based military expert Song Zhongping said. “Indeed, the announcement of an ADIZ in the South China Sea, or land reclamation plans for the Scarborough Shoal are just a matter of time and won’t be affected by the rulings.” Massive blow: South China Sea ruling takes direct aim at Beijing’s sweeping claims Song said the ADIZ and the reclamation projects were part of Beijing’s bigger strategy to control security in the region by traditional and non-traditional military means. In a written response to the South China Morning Post on the zone last month, the defence ministry said China had “the right of a sovereign state” to designate an ADIZ in the South China Sea, and Beijing’s timing of an announcement would “depend on whether China is facing security threats from the air, and what the level of the air safety threat is”. China set up its first ADIZ in the East China Sea in November 2013 to cover the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus. Both countries claim the uninhabited outcrops but Tokyo controls them. The ADIZ triggered a backlash from Japan, South Korea and the United States. But National Defence University dean Major General Zhu Chenghu told the First Financial Daily that China had no room for concessions in terms of territorial integrity and sovereignty in the South China Sea. “Unlike in the past, the Chinese army should now be ready and make no compromises on this issue,” Zhu said. Rocks, reefs and the ruling: the Hague tribunal’s key findings in the South China Sea case China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion in global trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines are also claimants over sovereignty in the region. When China finishes construction on the artificial islands, they will be a haven for both civilian and military vessels for those countries Beijing-based military expert Song Zhongping Li said Beijing expected all the claimants would be unhappy if China announced the zone but the strongest reaction would be from Vietnam. “But China will still keep friendly military-to-military exchanges with those Asian claimants, especially Vietnam and the Philippines,” he said. Song said China would try to convince its neighbours that China’s rise was inevitable and only Beijing was capable of taking the lead in maintaining regional security. “When China finishes construction on the artificial islands, they will be a haven for both civilian and military vessels for those countries, as well as a source of disaster relief services,” Song said. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said Beijing had learned from Washington to adopt a “carrot and stick” diplomatic strategy when dealing with the region. “But the chances of Beijing announcing a South China Sea ADIZ this year are slim because it needs more time to fine-tune civilian and military facilities on the artificial islands,” Wong said.