Washington: The US on Friday warned China that it would face “consequences" for military buildup in the disputed South China Sea where Beijing has deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the Trump administration has raised the issue with the Chinese leadership.
“We are well aware of China’s militarisation of the South China Sea. We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese leadership about this. And there will be near-term and long-term consequences," Sanders told reporters, responding to a question on the Chinese military build up in the South China Sea and other parts of the world.
China on Thursday defended the deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems in the disputed waters, saying it has “indisputable sovereignty" over the area. The Pentagon has also expressed concern over the Chinese military buildup in the disputed waters.
“We have been very vocal about our concerns about them militarising these artificial islands. China has to realise that they’ve benefited from the free navigation of the sea. And the US Navy has been the guarantor of that," chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told reporters.
“We will continue to do our operations and ensure that the Chinese understand that they cannot, and should not, be hostile and understand that the Pacific is a place in which much commerce goes through. And it’s in their interest to ensure that there’s a free navigation of international waters," she said.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. China claims almost all of South China Sea. Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.
The US media reports earlier said China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its outposts in the South China Sea.
In April, the Chinese military held its largest ever maritime drill in the disputed South China Sea during which it displayed for the first time the country’s aircraft carrier strike group and the most advance weaponry of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The drill was held amid frequent forays made by US naval and aircraft into the South China Sea to assert the freedom of navigation especially around the artificial islands built by China, where it has also established garrisons.
The strategic South China Sea is rich in energy reserves, fishery resources and is a busy shipping route. Meanwhile, the Pentagon confirmed that Chinese military personnel have used lasers against US military planes in Djibouti.
“They are very serious incidents. There have been two minor injuries. This activity poses a true threat to our airmen," Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White told reporters at her weekly news conference.
“We have formally demarched the Chinese government, and we’ve requested that the Chinese investigate these incidents," she said. PTI