Sunday, July 24, 2016

China withdrew missiles from South China Sea island ahead of Hague ruling: report

China withdrew missiles from South China Sea island ahead of Hague ruling: report

Surface-to-air weapons were probably removed from Woody Island in the Paracels to be shipped back to mainland for maintenance, report says
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 2016, 







China removed its new generation surface-to-air missiles from Woody Island in the South China Sea two days ahead an international tribunal ruling on a territorial dispute in the waters, IHS Janes Defence magazine ­reported, citing satellite images.
The images from Airbus ­Defence and Space showed a ­battery of HQ-9 missiles was ­removed on July 10, two days ­before the Permanent Court of ­Arbitration in The Hague rejected Beijing’s claims over the South China Sea, the report said.
The HQ-9s have a range of 200km and can intercept aircraft and incoming missiles.
The report said the missiles, which have been on Woody Island in the Paracels since at least February, were probably shipped back to the mainland for maintenance by a Type 072A landing ship docked in the island’s ­harbour.
Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the possible removal of the HQ-9s could be a response to the Pentagon’s decision to withdraw its USS John C. Stennis carrier from the South China Sea on July 5, showing both Beijing and Washington were keen to reduce the risk of military confrontation.
“The Chinese military needed to show a friendly gesture after the Pentagon withdrew the USS John Stennis to Hawaii,” Li said.
The Chinese military needed to show a friendly gesture after the Pentagon withdrew the USS John Stennis to Hawaii
BEIJING-BASED NAVAL EXPERT LI JIE
“Some proper efforts to disarm will help decrease regional tension.
“We can see progress in Sino-US high-level military-to-military exchanges, with the US sending their naval operations chief Admiral John Richardson to meet Chinese navy commander Admiral Wu Shengli in the aftermath of the rulings.”
Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said the HQ-9 system may have been due for extensive maintenance after deployment in at least two rounds of naval drills in the last few months in the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam.
The removal of the missiles ­coincided with week-long Chinese naval drills in the Paracels, which ended on July 11. CCTV footage showed the HQ-9 system launching missiles from a frigate.
But the defence ministry said the drills were not linked to the ­tribunal’s decision.
Meanwhile, US National ­Security Adviser Susan Rice will visit Beijing for a four-day trip starting tomorrow, the foreign ministry said. Rice will be the highest-level US official to visit China since the Hague rulings.
Even as Washington has sought to keep a lid on the situation, Rice told Reuters news agency that the US military would continue to “sail and fly and operate” in the South China Sea, despite a Chinese warning that such patrols could end “in disaster”.
With less than six months remaining in US President Barack Obama’s time in office, Rice’s broader mission in her trip is aimed at keeping overall ties ­between the world’s two largest economies, which she called “the most consequential relationship we have”, on track at a time of heightened tensions.
As President Obama’s top security aide, what Rice says represents Obama’s [security policy] direction
BEIJING-BASED NAVAL EXPERT LI JIE
“I’ll be there to advance our cooperation,” she said.
Li said Rice’s trip would help President Xi Jinping understand his US counterpart’s thinking on South China Sea issues.
“As President Obama’s top security aide, what Rice says represents Obama’s [security policy] direction ,” Li said.
Rice is expected to meet Xi during her visit and her agenda will include North Korea, economic issues and human rights. She would also lay the groundwork for Obama’s talks with Xi at a G20 summit in China in September, US officials said.