US officials told Reuters that China is almost finished building two dozen structures in the West Philippine Sea which appear to have been designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles.
It has been reported that China built structures on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross, areas that are covered as disputed territories.
South China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Greg Poling, said in a December report that China had apparently “installed” weapons including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems all on the seven artificial islands that it built on the West Philippine Sea.
“It certainly raises the tension,” Poling said. “The Chinese have gotten good at these steady increases in their capabilities.”
Structures are measured to be 20 meters (61.65ft) long and 10 meters (32.80ft) high.
This recent development raises questions as to how the US should respond despite not being part of the dispute in the first place. It was last month when tensions escalated between the two countries when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that Beijing should be restricted from accessing the territory and President Trump phoned Taiwan President, Tsai Ing-wen.
It has been observed that the tension between China and the United States started to simmer down as Trump pledged to Chinese President Xi Jinping to honor the “one-China” policy over the phone February 10th and Tillerson softened his tone regarding his affirmative suggestion.
According to a Pentagon spokesperson, the US will continue to commit itself to the “non-militarization in the South China Sea” and urged other claimants to accord with international law, although they consider this development as a military escalation.
The Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries find China’s move “very unsettling” and urged a dialogue to stop further developments being done in the area.