U.S.-Beijing Spat Escalates Over South China Sea
Secretary of State John Kerry questions President Xi Jinping’s credibility over Chinese leader’s pledge not to ‘militarize’ disputed islandsBy Chun Han Wong in Beijing and Gordon Lubold in Washington, WSJ
Updated Feb. 17, 2016 1:56 p.m. ET
The Obama administration sharply criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday after charging that China’s military had deployed batteries of advanced missiles on a disputed South China Sea island.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the missile deployment was at odds with a pledge made by Mr. Xi while visiting the White House last year to refrain from militarizing clusters of disputed islands throughout the South China Sea.
Chinese officials, while not directly confirming or denying U.S. and Taiwanese claims about the missiles, said they plan to keep strengthening defensive capabilities in the South China Sea.
While both sides have no appetite for open conflict, their entrenched positions are narrowing their options for a diplomatic solution, while fueling the potential for dangerous flare-ups.
U.S. officials said Wednesday that they had confirmed commercial satellite imagery appearing to show the deployment of surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel chain. The commercial images, from the firm ImageSat International NV, indicate the missiles were deployed sometime after Feb. 3.