On Thursday, China’s Defense Ministry defended what it is calling its country’s “right” to militarize the artificial Spratly Islands they have been building in the South China Sea. The country views these man-made installations as its sovereign territory that must have necessary defensive installations. Recent satellite images from The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies show what appear to be anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems on the islands.
Chinese officials claim that the man-made islands are primarily for “civilian use” despite being built in key defensive positions for their extensive and outdated claims over the South China Sea. China claims they have a right to build “necessary military installations” on these islands that they claim will be used for tourism.
China’s Defense Ministry attempted to shift the blame to the United States, claiming that their freedom of navigation operations are a direct threat to Beijing. The ministry issued a statement that reads:
“As for necessary military installations, they are mainly for defence and self-protection and are legitimate and lawful, If someone makes a show of force at your front door, would you not ready your slingshot?”
AMTI director Greg Poling claims that the weapons systems being built on the island are preparation for future conflict. He told reporters:
“This is militarization. The Chinese can argue that it’s only for defensive purposes, but if you are building giant anti-aircraft gun and CIWS emplacements, it means that you are prepping for a future conflict.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman dodged these allegations and fired back at Poling by claiming that, if placing the weapons systems on the islands are not defensive in nature, the American military’s freedom of navigation patrols through the South China Sea are also a form of militarization of the area.