China appears to have positioned “significant” weapons systems, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite vowing it had no intention of militarising the archipelago, a US thinktank has claimed. During a state visit to the US last year President Xi Jinping publicly stated that China did “not intend to pursue militarisation” of the strategic and resource-rich trade route through which about $4.5tn (£3.4tn) in trade passes each year. However, satellite images released on Wednesday by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies appeared to show Beijing was doing just that. The Washington-based group said the images, which were taken last month, showed what appeared to be anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems (CIWS) installed on man-made islands in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly archipelago, where Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have territorial claims. In a report, China’s new Spratly island defences, the AMTI said its analysts had identified what appeared to be defence “fortifications” on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs. Anti-aircraft guns and what were likely to be CIWS to fend off cruise… Read full this story
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