WASHINGTON – China has deployed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Hainan Island in the northern part of the South China Sea, an Israeli satellite imagery company has learned, citing analysis of recently captured images.
Amid concern about Beijing’s militarization and island building in disputed areas of the South China Sea, the observation that “China is apparently beginning to build a no-fly zone in the South China Sea” was put forward by ImageSat International (ISI) N.V. in a report made available to Kyodo News.
Satellite imagery taken May 8 captured two HQ-9 launchers, a radar center and three launch pads on a controlling hill located in the south of Hainan Island, according to the report.
The center is likely to be used to deploy early detection radar and fire control radar, it said.
Imagery dated March 15, however, showed no launchers or radars on the same location.
China has already deployed HQ-9 missiles on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Woody Island, controlled by Beijing, is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
The aggregate coverage from Woody and Hainan islands “creates a significant no-fly zone area above the largest maritime trade route in the area,” the report said.
“ISI experts estimate that in the future we will see more such batteries in the large artificial islands recently constructed by China” in an apparent attempt to step up its territorial claims in the South China Sea, it said.
Separately, ISI has found that China appears to be installing anti-ship missiles in the Yulin Naval Base in the south of Hainan Island. Such missiles have a range of about 400 kilometers, according to the report.
Referring to the possibility that Beijing is seeking to establish a no-sail area in the South China Sea, ISI said, “If we consider the deployment of anti-aircraft and anti-ship batteries in the area of the Yulin base and the Paracel Islands, we can see that China has begun building a maritime and aerial control corridor in the South China Sea.”