President Barack Obama said in an interview with Channel News Asia that his administration will “continue to test” Beijing’s pledge to not militarize the disputed South China Sea.
“We think China is resorting to the old style of might makes right, as opposed to working through international law and international norms to establish claims, and to resolve disputes,” Obama said.
Obama made the comments following a summit of Southeast Asian nations and after reports that included satellite imagery purporting to show missile systems being set up on the islands.
China and other nations — including Vietnam and Taiwan — all claim islands in the region but China has argued that the chain belongs exclusively to them.
According to China Cheat Sheets, the Chinese Defense Ministry called reports about the missile deployment “hype by certain Western media outlets,” adding that it has controlled the Paracels since the end of the Vietnam War. However, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of it.
“The Paracel Islands have always been a part of China’s territory,” the ministry said in a statement. “China has the legitimate and legal rights to deploy defense facilities within its territory, in order to defend the sovereignty and security of the country.”