China’s militarization of the South China Sea is a regional threat

SCSC - On December 21, 2016, US scholar Mark Valencia, currently adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, Hainan, China wrote an article titled “China is not the only one 'militarising' the South China Sea” on the South China Morning Post, providing a biased and untruthful reflection of reality in the South China Sea.

Mark Valencia used criticism from US experts and press of China’s militarization in the South China Sea (after the Center for Strategy and International Studies (CSIS) of the US released an image of Beijing locating air defense and anti-missile systems in artificial islands that China constructed in the Spratly) to write pretext for his article.

US experts like Bonnie Glaser condemned Xi Jinping for breaking his promise with President Obama in 2015 that China would not militarize features in the Spratly. China is developing anti-US naval access in the region, damaging the US interests of freedom of navigation. Meanwhile, Michael Auslin urged the US to take tough action against China's aggressive actions. Valencia argued that the criticism was unfair because the US and other countries also took similar provocative actions and made irrational arguments.

Valencia contended that China’s militarization of the South China Sea was not intentional but rather a response to the military activities by other claimants and the US’s pursuit of maritime freedom and strength empowering in the region. This is the usual allegation that China has used to justify its assertive activities in the South China Sea. However, such arguments do not reflect what is happening in reality.

In February 2016, China deployed two HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles to Woody Island in Paracel archipelago of Vietnam. In March, China also sent anti-ship cruise missiles YJ-62 to Woody Island. CSIS satellite imagery shows that China is building hexagonal structures on the artificial islands of the Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reef which are illegally occupied and built in the Spratly Islands of Vietnam. Here, China has completed the construction of aircraft hangars that can accommodate the largest air force military aircraft of this country.
altImage: Internet.


The hexagonal structures are said to serve air defense systems to promote its strength in the South of the South China Sea. This would pose a huge risk to the military operations of other countries and create a military threat to both East Sea claimants and external powers like the United States. After more than 20 years of modernization, the Chinese military is now able to maneuver massive surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles. Surface-to-air missiles such as the HQ-9 can attack aircraft within the range of 150-200 kilometers, while the YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missile with a warhead of 300 kg can destroy 7,000-ton ships from a distance of 120-400 km. These missiles are a threat to the area because, except for the United States and Japan, other countries in the region most likely to own warships of no more than 5,000 tons, given the lack of anti-missile weapons. The missile system is theoretically not attacking civilian vessels but rather propelling ships away from features in the South China Sea where they enjoy maritime freedom in accordance with international law.

It is clear that China is stepping up the militarization of the South China Sea, putting other countries in a fait accompli. It must be added that Mark Valencia, an American scholar who works for the South China Sea Institute, must have been manipulated as an international scholar to defend China’s wrongful position regarding militarization in the South China Sea. Mark Valencia’s unobjective argument clearly damaged his international prestige.

Quoc Anh