World

BEIJING (Web Desk) – The Chinese military has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of its contested islands in the South China Sea, satellite images appear to show, dramatically upping the stakes in a territorial dispute involving the US and its regional allies.

The images were first published by Fox News. The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, did not deny that missile launchers had been installed but said the reports were an attempt by certain western media to create news stories.

Tensions in the South China Sea, a vital shipping route, could rise after two batteries of eight missile launchers and a radar system were deployed to Woody Island in the past week, according to images taken by the private company ImageSat International.

“As for the limited and necessary self-defence facilities China has built on islands and reefs stationed by Chinese personnel, that is consistent with the self-defence and self-preservation China is entitled to under international law,” he said.

A foreign ministry spokesman also sidestepped confirming the deployment, but did say: “Whether or not to deploy defence facilities on islands is totally within China’s sovereignty. It has nothing to do with militarisation.”