A new photograph suggests China has deployed a long-range anti-ship missile system on a disputed island in the Paracel chain, its latest enhancement of military capabilities in the South China Sea, according to the magazine IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.
An image posted by a military analyst on Weibo on Sunday showed the launch of a YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missile with a radar dome in the backdrop. The analyst said the location was thought to be Woody Island, also known as Yongxing Island, the largest of the Paracels. Beijing has already installed a surface-to-air missile system on the island.
Jane’s said the image was consistent with photographs from a Chinese military magazine.
Experts told the Post that judging from the landscape and buildings in the background, the launch had taken place on Woody Island, which is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
Three in four people on Woody island in disputed South China Sea are Chinese military
This followed a Fox News report last month that it had obtained satellite images indicating that the Hongqi-9 air defence system had been set up on the island.
A retired senior colonel from the PLA Navy said China had been planning to deploy the YJ-62 on Woody Island.
“The Hongqi-9 and YJ-62 have complementary functions – the former is an anti-aircraft missile, while the later is anti-ship,” the expert said, adding the deployment was necessary because the Pentagon had vowed to send more ships to the South China Sea.
Hong Kong-based military expert Liang Guoliang said that installing the YJ-62 on Woody Island was a convenient choice for the navy because the missile’s radar system matched that of the Hongqi-9. Both were installed on the PLA Navy’s advanced Type 052C guided-missile destroyer.
Liang said the deployment of the YJ-62 on Woodly Island met China’s military strategy.
“It can protect China’s Exclusive Economic Zone, because the YJ-62 has a range of about 300km, which roughly matches the 200-nautical-mile extension of the EEZ but won’t affect the so-called freedom of navigation,” he said.
He added that the other function of Woody Island was to provide a protective shield for Yulin Naval Base in Sanya, Hainan, which is 300km away.
Macau-based analyst Antony Wong Dong said the Hongqi-9’s range reached the overlapping areas of the EEZs claimed by China and Vietnam, and the YJ-62 had an even longer range. “It is a great threat to Vietnam’s maritime security and a total violation of international law,” he said.