She said, "We're well aware of China's militarization of the South China Sea".
It seems likely that China will gage the reaction to this deployment to assess whether, or at least how quickly, it can deploy even more capable force-projection systems to the islands, like fighter and bomber aircraft, and conventional ballistic missiles capable of striking ships and bases at even greater distances, even beyond the South China Sea. She said the Chinese must understand that "they can not, and should not, be hostile, and understand that the Pacific is - is a place in which much commerce goes through".
President Xi Jinping's 2015 statement on militarizing the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea has often been mischaracterized as a pledge or promise, when his language - that China did not "intend" to militarize the features it occupied - was diplomatically ambiguous enough to leave room for the option later. China has to realise that they've benefited from the free navigation of the sea.
After reports confirmed that missiles were deployed to three of China's outposts in the disputed South China Sea - the developments were slammed. "Missile platforms present a clear offensive threat", Gregory Poling, a fellow at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies told CNBC.
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China has ignored the landmark July 2016 ruling that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over almost all of the South China Sea.
Over the last week, Beijing has conducted major military drills, including reportedly sending its aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait and flying jets between Japan's southernmost islands (the latter of which was explicitly described by the Chinese military as a preparation for future wars). US intelligence says there is a high probability the Chinese military had deployed anti-ship and anti-craft missiles to three artificial islands during recent military drills.
Previously, China had announced in 2016 that it had already deployed similar weapons to Woody Island in the Paracel Islands, on the northwestern edge of the South China Sea. Its foreign ministry said China has sovereignty over the Spratlys and the deployments were for national security needs and not aimed at any country.
"These missiles are located in Zamora Reef (Subi), Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross), and Panganiban Reef (Mischief) in the Spratlys, which are approximately from 13 nm to 117 nm away from Pag-asa Island, which is also part of Spratlys".
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"The relevant deployment targets no one". To reiterate the defensive narrative, the spokeswoman said that no other countries needed to worry about the new anti-ship and anti-air missiles unless they had an "invasive intention". "The relevant parties should not be concerned about this and should view this in an objective way".
CNBC first broke the story, citing sources with direct knowledge of United States intelligence reports who said the missile platforms were deployed on the outposts within the past 30 days.
"We have formally demarched the Chinese government, and we've requested that the Chinese investigate these incidents", she said.
Sung Kim, the United States ambassador to the Philippines, also told reporters in Manila that China's latest moves "suggest that they are moving toward militarisation", according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. "I just think that (Beijing) believes everybody, including the claimants, understands this is inevitable".
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