By Corey Dickstein
Stars and Stripes, 13 April 2016.
WASHINGTON — The Chinese have now deployed the largest number of fighter jets ever to Woody Island, one of the disputed South China Sea islands that they claim is their territory, a U.S. defense official said Wednesday.
China moved 16 Shenyang J-11 advanced fighter aircraft to Woody Island on April 7, said the defense official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly. He said such a large deployment was “unprecedented,” though it’s not the first time China has sent fighter jets to Woody Island, the largest landmass in the Paracel Islands, which are situated in the hotly disputed South China Sea region.
The Pentagon has confirmed smaller-scale deployments of Chinese fighters to Woody Island in the past, including in November 2015 and more recently in February.
New information obtained by Pentagon officials suggests China could be further building up its military on Woody Island.
Satellite photos taken by ImageSat International appear to show a fire control radar system present on Woody Island, which would allow China to use the surface-to-air missile systems it deployed there in February. The imagery shows the surface-to-air missile systems on the east side of the island, with several missiles in firing position.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in February that China was “deploying necessary, limited defensive facilities on its own territory.”
Read other articles related to militarization in the South China Sea at https://seasresearch.wordpress.com/category/events-and-analyses/militarization-in-the-south-china-sea/.