US Indo-Pacific commander Admiral John C Aquilino said that China has deployed anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems in the disputed South China Sea.
A top US military commander has claimed that the Chinese aggression in the South China Sea has soared tremendously in the past two decades and said that Beijing has fully militarised at least three of several islands in the disputed region. While speaking to the Associated Press, US Indo-Pacific commander Admiral John C Aquilino said that China has deployed anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment, and fighter jets in the disputed South China Sea.
The Admiral said that the deployment of military equipment came despite multiple assurances from Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to him, Xi Jinping had earlier said that Beijing would not transform the artificial islands in contested waters into military bases. The efforts were a part of China flexing its military muscle, he said.
“I think over the past 20 years we’ve witnessed the largest military buildup since World War II by the PRC,” Aquilino told AP in an interview, using the initials of China’s formal name.
“They have advanced all their capabilities and that buildup of weaponization is destabilizing to the region,” he added. Though China maintains that its military deployment is purely defensive and arranged to protect what it says are the sovereign rights, it has not yet countered the US Admiral’s claims. However, the Admiral pointed out how the Chinese government has increased the defence budget in order to match the United States’ defence capabilities.READ | China ‘not considering’ providing military, technical aid to Russia amid Ukraine war
China warns US to move aircraft from Chinese territory
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reporters who were on board with the US officials while they were patrolling over the South China Sea, said the P-8A Poseidon plane was repeatedly warned by Chinese callers saying the plane “illegally entered China’s territory”.
The reporter said that China ordered the US pilots to immediately move away their planes from Chinese territories.
“China has sovereignty over the Spratly islands, as well as surrounding maritime areas. Stay away immediately to avoid misjudgment,” the journalist quoted one of the stern radio messages.READ | China imposes strict lockdown rules on millions of people in northeast amid COVID surge
However, the US pilot ignored the Chinese radio threats and said: “I am a sovereign immune United States naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state.”
“Exercising these rights is guaranteed by international law and I am operating with due regard to the rights and duties of all states,” he added.