Meanwhile, a USA think tank – Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) – released new images that seem to show a powerful radar being installed on one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The islands in question are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, but China has continued construction despite protests from non-claimant countries, including the United States and Japan. His scheduled visit to the Pentagon was canceled but a meeting with Secretary of State John F. Kerry was still a go for Tuesday afternoon.
This part of the sea is disputed with China controlling the Paracel chain.
The Chinese regime began more assertively staking its claims to the South China Sea in November 2013.
“Placement of a high-frequency radar on Cuarteron Reef would significantly bolster China’s ability to monitor surface and air traffic coming north from the Malacca Straits and other strategically important channels”, said CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
He said militarisation was not the responsibility of one party alone, an apparent reference to United States patrols.
Harris also said he supported regular USA air and naval patrols to assert freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, a vital waterway through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year. Probable radar facilities are also seen on the Chinese outposts at Gaven, Hughes, and Johnson South reefs. “So that’s why we’re seeking to reduce tensions and encouraging all sides to come together to resolve their differences in a way that does not provoke a military confrontation”, he said. Maintaining peace and stability in the region is in line with the common interests of China, the US and relevant parties.
U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi participate in a joint news conference at the State Department on Tuesday.
In a separate report published by Reuters, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the Americans to back off from the on-going conflict in the South China Sea.
The report said the images showed that China appeared to have constructed a buried bunker and lighthouse on the northern portion of the feature, a helipad, communications equipment and a quay with a loading crane.
China has long claimed that its development of artificial islands was for civilian purposes, including weather observation, prompting Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop to ask Beijing if other countries could have access to the facilities.
“But regrettably, there are missiles and fighter aircraft and guns, artillery, and other things that have been placed into the South China Sea“, Mr. Kerry said.
Adm. Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, warned the same day that China is pushing projects to use contested areas in the South China Sea as military bases.
Already this month, the USA has taken tougher steps of its own against North Korea, tightening sanctions and announcing it will hold formal talks with its close ally South Korea on deploying a missile defense system that China fears could be used against it as well North Korea.