Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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China Strengthening Defenses of Military Outposts in Paracel Islands

Protected by SAMs

(Photo : AMTI) Woody Island in the South China Sea showing locations of illegal Chinese air defense weapons, including surface-to-air missiles.

New satellite images confirm China has emplaced more weapons on 20 of its outposts at the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The islands are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

The photos also reveal China has begun an extensive military build-up on eight of these islands. Three of these larger islands now have protected harbors capable of hosting large numbers of naval ships, said the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington that revealed the photos and a report about the build-up.

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Four other islands have smaller harbors with a fifth harbor under construction at Drummond Island. Five of the islands have helipads, with Duncan Island housing a full helicopter base.

And Woody Island, the largest island in the Paracels, has HQ-9 surface-to-air missile batteries; an airstrip and hardened hangars for protecting Chinese warplanes.

AMTI was conceived of and designed by CSIS as an interactive, regularly-updated source for information, analysis and policy exchange on maritime security issues in Asia.

It believes the extensive build-up is intended to allow China to consolidate its presence in the disputed islands it illegally occupies, and project its power in the region against mounting challenges from the U.S. Navy.

AMTI also said China is accumulating construction and building materials on islands not yet reinforced, a sure indication that militarizing these islands will take place in the future.

China militarization continues to prove it lied when it promised not to militarize its man-made islands and the islands it seized from other countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines.

In December 2016, China emplaced weapons on seven of its artificial islands in the Spratlys. China claimed the militarization is necessary for self defense.

Chinese analysts claim the bellicosity of U.S. President Donald Trump is to blame for this latest escalation of tensions in the South China Sea.

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