U.S. warns China of 'consequences' over militarization in South China Sea

China leader Xi Jinping

"We strongly condemn the installation of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems in the West Philippine Sea", Tinio said.

China's reported installation of missile systems at three sites in the South China Sea has alarmed the Philippines and the United States, officials said on Friday.

The CNBC television channel said that the Chinese Armed Forces would have installed defensive anti-ship and land-air weapons in the last month in outposts claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, citing sources close to U.S. intelligence.

If the information is verified, it could provoke renewed tensions between countries bordering the strategically vital maritime region.

However, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying neither confirmed nor denied the deployment. It claims an enormous swath of territory through the centre of the South China sea based on its self-proclaimed principle of nine dash line and has attempted to reinforce its hold on the area by creating and militarizing artificial islands in the Spratlys and the Paracels.

"Those who do not intend to be aggressive have no need to be anxious or scared", ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said.

This reef is one of the seven areas in the South China Sea that was reclaimed by China. Neighbouring countries (Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei) have competing claims. It builds civil facilities there as well as airstrips to allow military planes to land.

CNBC quoted unnamed sources as saying that according to USA intelligence assessments, the missiles were moved to the Spratlys within the past 30 days to Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and also Mischief Reef, which is 216km from the Philippines, well within Manila's exclusive economic zone.

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"We are well aware of China's militarisation of the South China Sea".

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the United States has concerns regarding the issue.

"We've raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this and there will be near-term and long-term consequences", she said, as quoted by Reuters.

Last month, US Admiral Philip Davidson, nominated to head US Pacific Command, said China's "forward operating bases" in the South China Sea appeared complete.

Duterte said: "Aquino filed the arbitration case, and we won".

Statements from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the island build-ups and point-defense systems did not constitute "militarization" were a rhetorical strain on the term, but it is true that those earlier systems had mostly defensive utility and were broadly non-threatening.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan 2nd, chairman of the Senate defense committee, said the Philippines should maintain high moral political ground by invoking the 2016 arbitral ruling.

"But for the South-East Asian countries and even smaller countries like Australia, France and the United Kingdom, which have been operating in the South China Sea recently, it'll be another ratcheting up of the threat level that will give politicians more pause for thought potentially before they commit to sending a single ship to prove a right to access".

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