China has recently deployed the advance surface-to-air missile system to one of its contested islands in the South China Sea. The recent satellite images show tow batteries of eight surface-t0-air missile launchers as well as radar system on woody island, a part of the Parcel island chain in the south china sea. There are several claimants to the dispute and the Woody Island has been claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. On several occasion there has been agreement on the peaceful settlement of the dispute. The missiles arrived in the Woody Island over weeks and according to news reports the missle were visible from 14 February.
Heightened tension and anxiety is seen among the claimants countries as well as United States. Recently president Obama and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had several rounds of discussion to ease the tension, but none of the dialogues ever had a mention of China’s assertive posture in the region
Though there have been several mechanism to thwart the tension and halt to the construction and militarisation of the disputed areas, the tension continues. US has pledged to conduct the freedom of navigation patrols for a free and smooth passage of ships were several countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Taiwan have their contested claim over the isalnd.
China sending its missile is not something unusual and it has deployed missiles on several occasions. The South China Sea issue intertwines several countries to dispute with China. Several countries like Brunei, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and China are intertwined in the dispute over the South China Sea. Since 1950 China has laid its claim over the Woody Island and the recent deployment probably is seen as a provocation.
US has raised concern over the deployment, Japan and Vietnam have joined hands with US in condemning this deployment. South China Sea is a contested area with countries competing over the trade routes and mineral deposits. Does this deployment by China confirms China’s assertiveness or as the Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Yi claims that an act to distort China’s image by the western media.
Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar @Takshashila. She tweets at priyamanassa