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China deploys fighter jets to contested island in South China Sea

/ 08:26 AM February 24, 2016
In this undated photo released by Japan Ministry of Defense, Chinese SU-27 fighter plane is shown. China and Japan are blaming each other for a close encounter between military jets over the East China Sea. China's defense ministry says Japanese F-15 fighters followed a Chinese TU-154 plane on regular patrol Wednesday, June 11, 2014 and got as close as 30 meters (100 feet). Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Wednesday that two Chinese SU-27 fighters had posed a danger to Japanese aircraft by flying near them. (AP Photo/Japan Ministry of Defense)

In this undated photo released by Japan Ministry of Defense, Chinese Shenyang J-11 fighter plane is shown. The J-11 is the Chinese version of the Russian SU-27 air superiority fighter. US officials have revealed that Beijing has deployed the plane and another warplane, the Xian JH-7 fighter-bomber, on Woody Island, a disputed isle in the Paracels. AP FILE PHOTOS

WASHINGTON, United States — China has deployed fighter jets to the same contested island in the South China Sea to which it also has sent surface-to-air missiles, US officials said Tuesday.

Citing two unnamed US officials, Fox News said US intelligence services had spotted Chinese Shenyang J-11 and Xian JH-7 warplanes on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel Islands chain over the past few days.

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READ: China builds radar facilities in disputed seaChina deploys missiles on disputed South China Sea island—report

Navy Captain Darryn James, a spokesman for US Pacific Command, confirmed the report but noted that Chinese fighter jets have previously used the island.

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Woody Island, which is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, has had an operational airfield since the 1990s but it was upgraded last year to accommodate the J-11.

“We are still concerned that the Chinese continue to put advanced arms systems on this disputed territory,” James said.

The move was reported as US Secretary of State John Kerry hosted his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in Washington.

Last week, China confirmed it had placed “weapons” on Woody Island, defending what it said was its sovereign right to do so.

A US official told AFP that Beijing has deployed surface-to-air missiles on the island, apparently HQ-9s, which have a range of about 125 miles (200 kilometers.)

Wang had been scheduled to visit the Pentagon earlier Tuesday but the visit was canceled due to a “scheduling conflict,” officials said.

On Monday, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies released satellite imagery showing what appeared to be a high-frequency radar installation under construction on an artificial island on Cuarteron Reef in the Spratlys.

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China’s land reclamation and military buildup in the South China Sea have drawn international condemnation and the United States has said it will continue to sail through waters claimed by Beijing.

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TAGS: China, Fighter jets, news, Paracel Islands, Pentagon, Shenyang J-11, South China sea, US Pacific Command, Woody Island, Xian JH-7
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