South China Sea: China’s missiles tests in region contested by Philippines revealed

The tests occurred in 2019, as NBC reported at the time, quoting a US official who said: “The Chinese carried out the first test over the weekend, firing off at least one missile into the sea.” The source even warned that future tests would be undertaken, stating that: “The window for testing remains open until July 3, and the official expects the Chinese military to test again before it closes.” No US Navy vessels were in the area when the missile or missiles splashed down, but the official described the event as “concerning” nonetheless.

In January 2019 China’s forces sent anti-ship ballistic missiles to the country’s northwest in an apparent attempt to thwart US Navy’s own attempts to send missile-armed vessels into the region.

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force positioned at least a dozen -launcher vehicles for the DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missile at a previously undisclosed training range near Alxa in China’s Inner Mongolia region, DigitalGlobe satellite imagery showed in January 2019.

The deployment was reportedly a response to the appearance of a US Navy warship near the Paracel Islands. The destroyer USS McCampbell sailed near the island group as part of a freedom of navigation operation.

But China’s military might is most prominent in the Spratly Islands – located in the centre of the South China Sea.

The archipelago is contested by numerous nations, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Described by many as “island fortresses”, China has engulfed the South China Sea with man-made island bases, and has been accused of forming them specifically for military purposes.

The moving of its aircraft carriers, airstrips and weapons into the region has earned the cluster of bases the nickname: “The Great Wall of Sand.”

A leaked set of photos given to a Filipino newspaper showed just how elaborate China’s development of military bases has been.

Some photographs showed cargo ships and supply vessels, which the newspaper said appeared to be delivering construction materials to the China-controlled islands.

Others show runways, hangars, control towers, helipads and radomes as well as a series of multi-storey buildings that China has built on reefs.

Beijing has been involved in numerous rows over the region, but its most recent standoff came with Malaysia.

The flashpoint has erupted after Malaysia explored waters outside its economic exclusion zone, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), leaving China and Vietnam livid.

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For weeks the countries have been wrestling for control as part of the wider battle for oil rich waters in the region.

But the new clash was sparked by a British drillship – the West Capella – deployed by Malaysia to an area which lies within the Malaysia-Vietnam Joint Defined Area (JDA) as well as China’s Nine-Dash Line.

Some of these oil fields are located within the Malaysia-Vietnam joint defined area, and the exploration effort has provoked fury from China.

China and Vietnam both deployed significant naval firepower to the area to disrupt and stop Malaysia’s energy exploration activities through intimidation.

AMTI tracked the standoff, following China Coast Guard (CCG) ships Haijing 5203 and 5305 as they patrolled around the British vessel being used by Malaysia in the region.

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