China Installs Anti-Aircraft Weaponry in South China Sea

A report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) on Wednesday concluded that China has installed anti-aircraft and close-in weapons systems (CIWS), which can defend against cruise missiles, on several of the artificial islands it claims in the South China Sea. If the findings are accurate, this would negate Beijing’s assertions that its island building activities are not military in nature. Greg Poling, the director of the AMTI, stated that "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.”
The Cipher Take: China’s island building activities in the South China Sea have reclaimed approximately 3200 acres of land spread across several locations. Many of these islands are in territory that is contested among several other countries, which has inflamed regional tensions. Earlier satellite imagery has shown the construction of ports, airstrips, airplane hangars, and fuel storage facilities, but the addition of anti-aircraft weaponry would confirm suspicions that China is militarizing these islands. For the United States, its treaty alliances with several countries in the region and its commitment to freedom of navigation puts it squarely at odds with China asserting control over —and apparently militarizing— these islands.


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