China has deployed long-range anti-ship cruise missiles and other air defence missiles on the Spratly Islands which has officially enhanced the offensive reach of the same. The move which is seen as an audacious one in the international arena has put to rest any speculations that China will not indulge in the militarization of the widespread bases which have been built by it on the reclaimed islands which are highly disputed.
China has reportedly deployed YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles and other HQ-9B anti-air missiles on islands like Fiery, Subi and other Mischief Reefs which fall in the Spratly Islands. Trump administration has expressed seriousness over the missile emplacements by China and stated that China will have to face suitable consequences over its unabated militarisation of the Spratly islands although Chinese foreign ministry has tried to lower the tone over any regional significance of the move.
China has reclaimed over 3000 acres of land on the Spratly islands on which it has built many facilities and military bases. The three largest islands of the area the Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs house extended which comprise both command, sensor arrays, highly sophisticated runways suitable for all military aircraft with China, tough aircraft shelters, fuel and munitions bunkers and also emplacements for missile batteries.
China had always maintained that its deployments in the area were purely defensive and did not form a threat to any country in the region. China has maintained short-range missiles and other point defence systems primarily to tackle incoming missiles. China’s Foreign Ministry has always held that the build-ups were not to be considered in the light of militarization. The recent deployments were also covered under the same rhetoric that it was part of the “national defence facilities”. The Foreign Office said that no country in the region had to worry about these developments unless they harbour any invasive intent. The latter comment was a covert attack on the US as latter had been preparing for an increased presence in the Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea. The previous deployments of the short-range point-defence systems purely stood for engaging incoming missiles which if fired on Chinese bases but were incapable of reaching the warships which had fired on them. However, the new deployments of anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-air missiles were completely able for offensive force projection as well.
Additionally, the long range of 160 to 250 nautical miles of YJ-12 missiles and of 100 nautical miles of HQ-9 missiles could successfully combat warships and other aircrafts beyond the horizon and thus will be instrumental against ships and aircrafts which will attack the Spratly Islands along with projection of effective control of the Sea and airspace around them. The recent deployments will be at least, in theory, be able to tackle most of the southern half of the South China Sea.
The unambiguous militarization
President Xi Jinping has always said that China does not intend to militarise the islands. This has always left enough room for a change in mind or strategy depending on future conditions. China’s Foreign Ministry had earlier expressed that China might deploy substantial forces on the Spratly islands due to a perceived threat from US freedom of navigation operations in the area. Although the nature of all the US operations was absolutely non-confrontational yet Chinese did use them as a reason for enhancing their build-ups in the region.
The militarization of the Spratly Islands by China thus stands completed with only forces to be added to it. Latter accomplished will empower China to counter and even challenge any US presence in the region and exercise effective control in the region. China’s deployment has raised concerns across the region among all the stakeholders. Any severe response could further trigger further deployments of aircraft bombers and even fighters jets.
The situation although under control is alarming and needs serious cognizance by the world powers.