The likely deployment of powerful radar by China on an island in the South China Sea signifies the Chinese regime’s attempt at “effective control” over the disputed waters, the home to many competing maritime claims and crucial shipping lanes, according to an American think tank.
In a report released on Feb. 22, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) presents satellite images of Cuarteron Reef and highlights what looks like a high-frequency radar installation. Probable radar facilities are also seen on the Chinese outposts at Gaven, Hughes, and Johnson South reefs.
A high-frequency radar on Cuarteron would “significantly boost” China’s ability to monitor ships or planes that pass through the Straits of Malacca, a vital shipping lane between Malaysia and Indonesia, the CSIS report continues. Conversely, China’s placement of surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the Paracel Island chain north of Spratly—a development that engendered the making of much diplomatic noise between China and the US last week—has no strategic significance due to the People’s Liberation Army already possessing superior anti-aircraft capabilities in the area, according to a separate CSIS report.
The satellite images by CSIS were taken between Jan. 24 and Feb. 12. Cuarteron, Gaven, Hughes, and Johnson South reef are four of seven man-made islands rapidly reclaimed by China in the Spratly island chain between Brunei and Vietnam. In a congressional hearing on Feb. 23, Admiral Harry Harris, Jr. confirmed the presence of new radar on Cuarteron.
The presence of high-powered radar would be the latest twist to the drama developing in the South China Sea, a 1.3 square mile stretch of water and island chains that is being contested by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. While the United States has no claim in the South China Sea, it has become embroiled in the hustings in seeking to preserve freedom of passage for international trade.
MORE:CHINA SECURITY: Clash Over South China Sea Is Reaching Boiling PointCHINA SECURITY: In Disputed Waters, China Is The Thief Who Yells ‘Stop Thief’China Begins Weaponizing Its Man-Made Islands as Tensions Grow
According to the CSIS report, the Chinese regime’s radar facilities in the Spratlys and construction of “new runways and air defense capabilities” on other islands suggest a “long-term anti-access strategy by China—one that would see it establish effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the South China Sea.”
When asked about the possible radar facilities at a press conference on Feb. 23, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, claimed she was “not aware of the situation,” but maintained that the Chinese regime has the right to deploy “limited and necessary defense facilities on relevant stationed islands and reefs” in the Spratly islands according to international law.
The Chinese regime began more assertively staking its claims to the South China Sea in November 2013. Last year, a massive land reclamation project saw the creation of several artificial islands. An airplane runway that appeared to be constructed to military specifications has even appeared on one of these new islands. The regime has also appeared to have weaponized the islands, according to reports in May 2015.
United States Admiral Harris believes that the Chinese regime is priming for full control over the region. “I believe China seeks hegemony in East Asia,” Harris told lawmakers in a Feb. 23 congressional session. In a propaganda gesture that has been seen with some irony, Chinese state media has maintained all along that it is the United States—with demands for freedom of navigation—that is seeking hegemony in the region.
Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee that China is militarizing the South China Sea, “and you have to believe in a flat earth to think otherwise.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read the full article here

This news analysis was originally dispatched as part of Epoch Times China email newsletters. Subscribe to the newsletters by filling your email in the “China D-brief” box under this article.
While news that China deployed anti-aircraft missiles in the South China Sea made headlines over the past week, the missiles are just part of a broader shift that will likely take the conflict to a new level.
The changes began on Jan. 30, when the USS Curtis Wilbur, a destroyer with the U.S. Navy, passed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea.
It was part of a “freedom of navigation” mission, and was supported by Taiwan and Vietnam, which both lay claim to Triton Island. China, on the other hand, which also claims the island, was not happy.
State-run news sources within China began trumpeting news about U.S. aggression, and claims that the United States was trying to establish “hegemony” in the South China Sea.
I explained the irony of the Chinese narrative in a previous piece—noting that the situation is the opposite. China is literally trying to establish hegemony over the region, while the United States is trying to maintain standards of free transit through the waters which are critical to international trade.
Yet, regardless of intentions, the Chinese regime called for a heightened military response against the United States and its allies—and this may bring tensions in the South China Sea to a boiling point.
Satellite imagery from Feb. 14 showed that China deployed anti-air missile systems (surface-to-air missiles, or SAMs) on Woody Island in the Paracel Island chain.
The Chinese regime claimed the missiles had been there for years, but if this was true, the Chinese military had kept the missiles hidden. Satellite images show the missiles were brought out sometime between Feb. 3 and Feb. 14. Previous reports say China began weaponizing its man-made islands around May 2015.
While the missiles took center-stage in global reporting, however, there were several other developments of similar weight.
China may be building a new helicopter base for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), according to a report from USNI News, a news source of the U.S. Naval Institute. Defense analysts have previously noted that submarines would be a game-changes for the United States, if there were a war with China.
The new anti-submarine base “could signal a step-up in China’s ASW capabilities across the South China Sea,” states a report from Victor Robert Lee of The Diplomat.
“A network of helicopter bases and refueling stops scattered across the South China Sea, using no more than the bases China is already known to be building, would make almost any coordinate in the sea reachable,” Lee states.
People’s Daily, one of the main mouthpieces of the Chinese regime, then followed with a commentary saying China must “teach the US a lesson” if the United States continues its freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.
The commentary said Chinese forces should fire warning shots and ram U.S. ships.
Chinese news outlets are now reporting that the Chinese regime may deploy anti-ship missiles, and other weapons in the South China Sea.
Li Jie, senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies ­Research Institute, told the South China Morning Post that China would deploy more advanced weapons if the United States “pushed too hard.”
Facing the rise in tensions with China, the United States is now looking to expand a key naval protocol for safety of ships meeting at sea, called the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.
The proposed changes would edit rules to cover non-military ships. It was outlined by Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Japan-based U.S. Seventh Fleet, according to The Diplomat.
MORE:Clone of America’s Top Jet Spotted on Chinese AirfieldInvestigative Report: A Hospital Built for Murder
One of the key reasons for the considered changes, according to The Diplomat, is that the Chinese regime is deploying new, large coast guard ships “painted white rather than Navy grey.” China has been using coast guard and fishing boats as part of its military strategy in the region.
Other nations are also upping their game to challenge China’s claims. The United States is urging Australia to begin its own freedom of navigation operations, Vietnam is building up its military, troops in the Philippines are preparing for the “worst-case” scenario of a dispute with China, and Japan is considering starting its own naval patrols.
The question now is how hard is China willing to push back, and how will other nations undo China’s actions to build military structures in its push to control transit in the region.

Read the full article here