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US Detects Chinese Artillery On Disputed Island

US surveillance imagery taken last month found two pieces of Chinese artillery deployed on one of the artificial islands the country is developing in the East Sea.

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Though China has publicly stated that its recent spate of island building in the region is for civilian use, American officials said that the artillery, which has since been moved or hidden, shows that Beijing is utilizing the islands for military purposes, reports The Wall Street Journal

While the mobile artillery wouldn’t pose a threat to US planes or ships, more of which could soon be deployed to the area, their existence is symbolic.

“It needs to be emphasized that the Nansha Islands is China’s territory, and China has every right to deploy on relevant islands and reefs necessary facilities for military defense,” said Zhu Haiquan, the spokesman for the Chinese embassy. “However, the facilities on relevant islands and reefs are primarily for civilian purposes.”

The US has been conducting Navy surveillance flights near the artificial islands and monitoring them via reconnaissance satellites. Such operations have found that China has been building radar installations and landing strips on the islands.

The Chinese have been critical both of the flights and remarks made by American officials. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Thursday that the US made “inappropriate remarks about China’s construction work” and that the actions are within the sovereign rights of China.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters that no matter their justifications, China is ultimately responsible for any instability in the area.

“The new facts are not created by the United States,” Mr. Carter said as his plane flew into Singapore. “The new facts are created by China.”

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