Recent foreign satellite images suggest that China has deployed early warning aircraft and anti-submarine aircraft on the Yongshu Reef in the South China Sea amid increased US military activities in the region, as Chinese experts said on Thursday that China has the right to deploy defensive weapons there according to military threats China is facing.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed the KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system and the KQ-200 maritime patrol aircraft, also known as the Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, on the permanent base on the Yongshu Reef in the South China Sea, media in the island of Taiwan reported Thursday, citing satellite photos taken by ImageSat International on Saturday.
Previous satellite photos show aircraft hangars near the airstrip on the reef were installed with air conditioners, indicating military aircraft were ready for extended deployment, reports said.
The Taiwan media reports claimed this is an indication that the PLA is planning an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea.
The alleged PLA warplane deployment came at a time when the US has been frequently sending warships and warplanes, including an aircraft carrier, an amphibious assault ship, destroyers, cruisers, bombers and patrol aircraft into the South China Sea since the start of the year, and even more after its aircraft carriers were hit by COVID-19 as the US attempted to show its military capability was not hindered.
Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times on Thursday that while he cannot confirm the authenticity of these reports, it is within China’s scope of sovereignty that it enhances construction on islands and reefs in the South China Sea and deploys defensive weapons in accordance with China’s national defense needs.
Based on the seriousness of threats China is facing, China could take necessary defensive measures, Zhang said, noting that this conforms to international law.
Following the approval of the State Council, the city of Sansha in South China’s Hainan Province announced in April the establishment of two new districts to administer waters in the South China Sea.
Xisha District is set to administer the Xisha and Zhongsha islands and surrounding waters, with a government located in Yongxing Island. Nansha District has jurisdiction over the Nansha Islands and its waters with a government located in the Yongshu Reef.