South China Sea
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Washington has condemned China for building military installations on artificial islands and reefs. Photo: Reuters

China’s ‘disturbing’ missile tests contradict vow not to militarise South China Sea, says US

  • Launch undermines claim to want peace in the region and is designed to intimidate other claimants of the disputed waters, Pentagon says
  • Chinese government had warned ships not to enter area between Spratly and Paracel islands for five days while military drills took place

The Pentagon said on Tuesday a recent Chinese missile launch in the disputed South China Sea was “disturbing” and contrary to Chinese pledges that it would not militarise the disputed waterway.

The South China Sea is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which include a trade war, US sanctions and Taiwan.
China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing’s militarisation of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.
A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said China tested multiple anti-ship ballistic missiles over the weekend.
“Of course the Pentagon was aware of the Chinese missile launch from the man-made structures in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn, spokesman for the US defence department.

“I’m not going to speak on behalf of all the sovereign nations in the region, but I’m sure they agree that [China’s] behaviour is contrary to its claim to want to bring peace to the region and obviously actions like this are coercive acts meant to intimidate other [South China Sea] claimants,” Eastburn added.

China has not confirmed the missile tests and on Tuesday the foreign ministry declined to comment, referring questions to the defence ministry, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The Chinese government has said that the military was carrying out drills between the Spratly and Paracel islands starting last weekend and ending on Wednesday, warning other shipping not to enter a designated area.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

News of the China missile test was first reported by NBC News.