China has deployed the largest number of fighter jets ever to Woody Island in one of the disputed South China Sea islands that they claim is their territory. The development took place just days before US Defence Secretary Ash Carter visits the Philippines where the situation and ongoing tensions over the disputed region are expected to be on the agenda. According to reports, China has moved 16 Shenyang J-11 advanced fighter aircraft to the island on April 7 and such a large deployment was ‘unprecedented.’ However, it is not the first time China has deployed fighter jets to Woody Island, the largest landmass in the Paracel Islands.
Mr Carter is expected to visit bases in the Philippines that the US considers strategically important to countering Chinese aggression in the region. Mr Carter has said that the US will invest in and deploy rotational American troops to the Philippines bases.
“It is important for all of the nations – China, the Philippines, Vietnam, others – not to engage in any unilateral steps of reclamation, of building, of militarisation,” Secretary of State John Kerry had said in February. “The fact is that there have been steps by China, by Vietnam, and by others that have unfortunately created an escalatory cycle.”
The island in the South China Sea sees more than $5trillion in global trade pass every year. Woody Island is presently under Chinese control, but it is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. China has said that the US had “ulterior motives in hyping up China’s deployment of missile defence systems on an island in the South China Sea”. Citing China’s strong economy as a motive, a military spokesman said: “The hyping by certain western media is a pure repeat of the ‘China threat’ theory.” In a White House statement, US President Obama called on China to “address differences with its neighbours on maritime issues peacefully”.
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