China ‘Clearly’ Militarizing South China Sea: Pacific Command Chief

This image with notations provided by ImageSat International N.V., on Feb. 17, 2016, shows satellite images of Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. A U.S. official confirmed that China has placed a surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island in the Paracel chain, but it is unclear whether this is a short-term deployment or something intended to be more long-lasting. (ImageSat International N.V. via AP)This image with notations provided by ImageSat International N.V., on Feb. 17, 2016, shows satellite images of Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. A U.S. official confirmed that China has placed a surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island in the Paracel chain, but it is unclear whether this is a short-term deployment or something intended to be more long-lasting. (ImageSat International N.V. via AP)

The admiral in charge of U.S. Pacific Command said China’s introduction of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, radar system and 10,000-foot runway on contested islands within the South China Sea represented militarization in violation of national protocols.

In a hearing on Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Navy Adm. Harry Harris called for continued freedom-of-navigation movements through the region to reinforce U.S. rights and discredit China’s attempted power grab.

The hearing came a week after reports surfaced that China had deployed the surface-to-air missiles to Woody Island, the largest island in the Paracel chain in the South China Sea.

Harris, who has led PACOM for seven months, said the move did not surprise him at all.

“In my opinion China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea, and you have to believe in a flat earth to think otherwise,” he told the panel.

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Hope Hodge Seck
Hope Hodge Seck is a reporter at Military.com. She can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.