On Wednesday, China test-fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles into the South China sea a day after the United States blacklisted 24 Chinese businesses for the militarization of the area. The Trump administration added 24 Chinese companies to a trade blacklist that now consists of 300 Chinese companies) for helping China build islands in the South China Sea, a construction program the United States has labelled an illegal attempt to control an important shipping route. The move comes right after both US and Chinese officials announced their commitment to a trade treaty signed by both countries in January.
Following their announcement, two missiles, a DF-26 and a DF-21D — road-mobile missiles with enough precision to strike a ship at sea — were fired into the sea near Hainan Island and the Paracels, according to Chinese press reports. The landing areas were within a zone that, according to the South China Morning Post, Hainan maritime safety authorities had warned last week, would be off-limits because of military exercises from Monday to Saturday.
The DF-26 dual-capable missile, with a range of 4,000km, is a type of weapon banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty treaty signed by the US and Soviet Union towards the end of the Cold War. When the US withdrew from the treaty last year, it cited China’s deployment of such weapons as justification. The missile is specifically designed to function as
China claims that the move was prompted by a US U-2 spy plane that entered a no-fly zone without permission during a Chinese live-fire naval drill in the Bohai Sea off its north coast. A source close to the Chinese military told the South China Morning Post that the move was aimed at improving China’s ability to deny other forces access to the South China sea.
The source claims that the missile launch was aimed at improving China’s ability to deny other forces access to the South China Sea, a disputed region.
“This is China’s response to the potential risks brought by the increasingly frequent incoming US warplanes and military vessels in the South China Sea,” the source said. “China doesn’t want the neighbouring countries to misunderstand Beijing’s goals.”
Vietnam has condemned China’s military drill in the Paracel islands as a move against the country’s territorial integrity and regional peace.
“The repeated military exercises that China conducts in the Spratly islands violate Vietnam’s sovereignty over the islands, go against the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), complicate the situation and is not conducive to the ongoing negotiations between China and ASEAN on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea and the maintenance of peaceful, stable, and cooperative environment in the South China Sea,” said Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang on Wednesday.
In July, the PLA conducted military exercises in South China, East China and Yellow seas, as two US aircraft carriers conducted tactical air defence exercises in the South China Sea – manoeuvres the US said were “in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific”.
The United States has long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, sending warships regularly through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation there. In July, the US also warned China of sanctions pertaining to their role in the South China Sea, and rejected China’s claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea as “completely unlawful,” a stance Beijing said raised tensions in the region.
China routinely outlines the scope of its claims in the South China Sea with reference to a so-called nine-dash line on its maps that encompasses about nine-tenths of the 3.5-million-square-kilometre waters.
The United States has claimed that China’s trying to dominate the area and create a maritime empire, a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is also backed up by a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 in the case of Philippines vs China, whee the court clarified that it would not "...rule on any question of sovereignty over land territory and would not delimit any maritime boundary between the Parties". The tribunal also ruled that China has "no historical rights" based on the "nine-dash line" map. China has rejected this ruling.
US President Donald Trump in recent weeks has stepped up his rhetoric against China ahead of what is expected to be a tough re-election fight and as a consequence, tensions between the two countries have risen over a host of issues including blame for the pandemic and China’s policies in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.