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China fires missiles into South China Sea

Warning shots: Chinese frigate Yuncheng launching an anti-ship missile during a military exercise in the waters near Hainan Island and Paracel Islands, in this file photo.   | Photo Credit: AP

China on Wednesday fired at least two missiles into the South China Sea in what Chinese media described as a warning to the United States, amid escalating tensions between the countries over Chinese maritime claims and military exercises being conducted in disputed waters by China.

The missiles were fired into waters between Hainan province and the Paracel Islands in an area that China had previously notified would be off-limits because of planned drills, also expected to include missile tests.

Chinese media reported the missiles were fired a day after the United States flew spy-planes through at least two areas where drills were being held.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said a DF-26B missile was launched from the northwestern Qinghai province, while the DF-21, an anti-ship ballistic missile dubbed an “aircraft carrier-killer”, was launched from the eastern coastal Zhejiang province.

China has been conducting military exercises simultaneously in four seas - the Bohai Sea in the north, the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and the South China Sea. Beijing said an American Lockheed U-2 aircraft had flown through what it had notified as a northern no-fly zone as part of a live-fire drill on Tuesday, while a Boeing RC-135S reconnaissance aircraft had flown over the South China Sea drills the following day.

Also read: U.S. blacklists 24 Chinese firms amid South China Sea dispute

The aircraft "approached near an ongoing PLA exercise in waters off Hainan Island's southeast coast”, said the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Chinese think-tank.

"It is possible that the US believes the PLA would launch anti-ship ballistic missiles like the DF-21D or the DF-26 in the drills, so it sent the RC-135S to gather intelligence, a Chinese military expert who wasn’t named told the Communist Party-run Global Times.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian hit out at the “incursion” by American aircraft as "a blatant, provocative act that could have easily caused misunderstanding and misjudgment, and even triggered an air and maritime accident”.

He also slammed U.S. moves announced on Wednesday to sanction 24 Chinese companies, which the Department of Commerce said had been added to the entity list "for their role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarise the internationally condemned artificial islands in the South China Sea.”

The companies included the China Communications Construction Company and China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), both prominent State-run companies that are involved in many overseas projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

"China's construction activities on its own territory are entirely within its sovereignty and have nothing to do with militarization,” Mr. Zhao said. "The participation of Chinese companies and individuals in domestic construction activities is legitimate, lawful and beyond reproach. It is unjustified for the US to impose sanctions on Chinese companies and individuals for their involvement in relevant construction activities in their own country. The move by the US side grossly interferes in China's internal affairs and violates international law and basic norms governing international relations. It is hegemonistic logic and power politics that are at play here.”

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 12:37:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/china-fires-missiles-into-south-china-sea-warning-us/article32459462.ece

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