Australia has raised concerns about China’s reported deployment of surface to air missiles in South China Sea islands as a grave risk to civilian commercial flights. According to Australia’s foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, China’s missile deployment has heightened the risk of “miscalculation.”
“We are talking about an area where civilian aircraft pass through, where there’s a lot of navigation, because it’s a significant trade route, not only for Australia but for other countries … My point is that if there are surface-to-air missiles in an area where commercial aircraft fly, then there is a risk of miscalculation,” Bishop said.
Bishop was speaking at the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday. The foreign minister said she raised the “deeply worrying” issue with Beijing. To a question, how commercial airlines should respond to the risk, Bishop said “commercial ships and planes should continue as normal … because China has undertaken not to militarise.” Bishop reiterated Australia’s call for cessation of all land-reclamation work in the South China Sea, reports The Guardian.
“A number of claimants have reclaimed land and constructed things but the scope and scale and speed of China’s activities have dwarfed those of all others,” Bishop said.
However, Chinese foreign affairs minister Wang Yi did not deny the presence of missile launchers. He also blamed sections of the western media for exaggerating it.
“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,” Wang said.
Meanwhile, soaring tensions in the South China Sea are turning Vietnam into a leading arms importer. According to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Vietnam is buying more weapons than its well off neighbors such as South Korea and Singapore.
The study said Vietnam has become the world’s eighth-largest arms importer. This is a huge leap from its previous rank of 43 in 2010, reports the Market Watch. The study showed India as the top importer of arms followed by Saudi Arabia and China.