SU-30s have been deployed to the South China Sea. Source: Flickr
Vietnam has fortified several islands in the disputed South China Sea with mobile rocket launchers able to strike China’s disputed bases on neighbouring reefs.
Hanoi reportedly shipped the launchers, which could be made operational in about three days, to five bases in the Spratly islands in recent months. They said Vietnam’s foreign ministry said the reports were inaccurate.
The launchers are thought to be part of Hanoi’s “Extra” rocket artillery system bought from Israel with a limited range of 150km and capable of carrying 150kg warheads that could attack several targets simultaneously.
Ahead of the G20 summit in China in early September, Foreign Minister Wang Yi is touring India in the hope of dissuading Prime Minister Narendra Modi from joining other world leaders in raising the ticklish dispute.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in July that China’s territorial claims to the sea had no legal basis and India has called for the dispute to be resolved their disputes through peaceful means “without threat or use of force” and to show “utmost respect” for international law.
After China, Modi will travel to Laos for the Asean-India summit and the East Asia Summit from September 6-8.
Satellite pictures show China has been building bases on reclaimed islands, with reinforced aircraft hangars on islands it has occupied.
The Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington published the pictures showing the construction of the hangars on three reclaimed islands where China has built air bases. The think-tanks said the islands “will soon have hangar space for 24 fighter-jets plus three to four larger planes” and “can easily accommodate any fighter-jet”.
Fighters, including the J-11 and Su-30 and bombers like the H-6, have been identified and the largest hangars can accommodate the 46-metre-long KJ-2000 surveillance aircraft.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said in 2015 that he did not intend to militarise the reefs he controlled but the latest pictures suggest otherwise, with the hangars judged to be reinforced to withstand air attack.
Tensions also increased this month when South Korea announced that it would host an advanced US-made anti-missile defence detachment.