US calls for 'very serious' talks on China's missiles

US Secretary of State John Kerry responds to a question on China deploying missiles in the South China Sea, on Feb 17, 2016.
US Secretary of State John Kerry responds to a question on China deploying missiles in the South China Sea, on Feb 17, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON • The United States wants "very serious" talks with China over Beijing's deployment of advanced missiles to a disputed island, a move that many analysts say reflects growing militarisation of the strategically important South China Sea.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who called for the talks, described the issue of militarisation as a "serious concern".

But Chinese officials have dismissed Wednesday's reports about the missile deployment on Woody Island in the Paracel chain, which China has controlled for decades, as nothing but "hype" by the Western media. The Paracels are also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

China's increasingly assertive pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea has alarmed neighbours, with maritime countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam, which have rival claims, pushing for more vigorous action against Chinese expansion.

Analysts have noted that the deployment appeared to follow recent freedom of navigation missions by the US Navy that the Chinese have slammed as provocative. It could also suggest that China is prepared to risk raising tensions in the South China Sea to pursue its maritime claims, some analysts say.

REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'US calls for 'very serious' talks on China's missiles'. Print Edition | Subscribe