The Chinese regime scrambled fighter jets on May 10 to chase a U.S. Navy ship in a region of the south China Sea about 500 miles south of the Chinese mainland.
The United States is continuing its “freedom of navigation” exercises in the region, which several different countries claim parts of, and which China claims in its entirety.
The USS William P. Lawrence, a guided missile destroyer, passed within 12-nautical miles of the Fiery Cross Reef, which is in the Spratly Island chain. According to Reuters, the Chinese regime responded by scrambling two fighter jets and three warships, which shadowed the U.S. ship and told it to leave.
China converted the reef into an artificial island in a highly controversial move in 2014, and satellite imagery in Sept. 2015 showed the Chinese regime had started building advanced military facilities on the man-made island, including sophisticated radar.
According to The Diplomat, the Chinese regime had also constructed a runway on the artificial island close to 10,000 feet long. On Jan. 2, it conducted its first landing on the newly-built airstrip.
This isn’t the first time the Chinese regime has scrambled jets to chase foreign ships or aircraft in the contested region. In 2013, soon after China created a largely unrecognized air defense zone in the disputed East China Sea, it began scrambling jets to chase U.S. and Japanese planes passing through the region.
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This may, however, be the first time the Chinese regime has scrambled jets to chase foreign ships in a region this far south of the Chinese mainland.
The Chinese regime only recently began deploying jets in the South China Sea. In February, it began deploying jets on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Island chain closer to Vietnam and Hainan.
The jets it used in the recent incursion, however, were likely the two J-11 fighter jets it deployed in early April to Woody Island.

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New images suggest the Chinese regime has deployed anti-ship cruise missiles on Woody Island, in its latest move to weaponize disputed territory in the South China Sea.
An image of a YJ-62 anti-ship missiles being fired on what appears to be Woody Island was posted on China’s Weibo blog on March 20. The missile has a 248-mile range, and is designed to sink modern warships.
Richard Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, explained the validity of the image in a report from intelligence company IHS Jane’s.
Fisher said the image of the missile is consistent with photos of the YJ-62 published in Chinese military magazines. He also notes the image “shows a radar dome that the Chinese blogger makes a strong case for being on Woody Island.”
The development would be consistent with recent Chinese news reports. A report from the South China Morning Post said the Chinese regime may deploy anti-ship missiles and other advanced weapons to islands in the South China Sea.
The Chinese news outlets cited Li Jie, senior researcher at the Chinese regime’s People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, making the claims.
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China has been in the process of weaponizing the islands—some of which it seized, and some of which it constructed itself.
The Chinese regime recently deployed jets, radar, and anti-air missiles on the islands. Reports also suggest it is building a helicopter base for anti-submarine warfare.
By weaponizing the islands, the Chinese regime is moving closer to what defense analysts have been warning about for years. They say China is trying to establish an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy to gain military control over the region.

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