Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the militarization of the South China Sea ahead of his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi today. Reuters:
The United States is “encouraging the peaceful resolution of competing maritime claims in the South China Sea – a goal that is definitely not helped by the militarization of facilities in that region,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The United States last week accused China of raising tensions in the South China Sea by its apparent deployment of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, a move China has neither confirmed nor denied.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, for its part, compared Beijing’s island fortifications in the Spratlys to U.S. military outposts in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, satellite image analysis released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that China could be placing sophisticated radar systems on its artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago. Reuters:
“Two probable radar towers have been built on the northern portion of the feature, and a number of 65-foot (20-meter) poles have been erected across a large section of the southern portion,” the report said.
“These poles could be a high-frequency radar installation, which would significantly bolster China’s ability to monitor surface and air traffic across the southern portion of the South China Sea.”
As we commented yesterday, Beijing doesn’t seem to fear backlash from Secretary Kerry or anyone in Washington at the moment. On the contrary, Chinese officials have been ramping up their militarization of the South China Sea, seemingly intent taking advantage of a cautious and lame duck President Obama’s final year in office.