China may have deployed missile systems in S. China Sea – U.S. official

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China has engaged in artificial island-building and militarization in the Spratlys.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 4) — China may have deployed missile systems in three islands of the South China Sea, a United States defense official told CNN.

The report from CNN said the official referred to intelligence analysts, who said the missiles were placed on the Spratly Islands during Chinese exercises last month.

READ: White House warns China on growing militarization in South China Sea

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said they are considering taking "diplomatic action" against China anew over the reports.

"We're taking it seriously. We're verifying the information," he told reporters Friday.

Cayetano said he will coordinate with the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser and the National International Coordinating Agency to verify the reports.

But he explained it would take both claimants in the region and non-regional players to talk to settle concerns on territory and militarization.

"The problem is it can't be solved just by the Philippines and China," Cayetano said. "This is what the President was saying, that it's not directed at us, but of course our allies and defense are saying that they may have missiles there. It could affect anyone."

This is the latest in militarization activities in the contested waters. Two weeks ago, reports of two Chinese military transport planes on Panganiban Reef or Mischief Reef in the contested Spratly Islands surfaced.

In a press conference Wednesday, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying reiterated the deployment of "national defense facilities" targets no specific country.

"Our peaceful construction activities on the Nansha Islands, including the deployment of necessary national defense facilities, are meant to safeguard China's sovereignty and security, which is also the rights a sovereign state is entitled to," Hua said, when asked about the missile deployment.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN Thursday that the United States has "raised concerns" with China, as they are well aware of the ongoing militarization in the region.

"There will be near-term and long-term consequences, and we'll certainly keep you up to date," she added.

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim reiterated their country's stand against militarization in the South China Sea. Kim calls on all claimants including China to refrain from unilateral aggressive actions that are inconsistent with international law and norms.

"We are concerned. I think we are concerned anytime a claimant including China takes aggressive unilateral actions towards militarization which is clear what they seem to have done i saw the report. It seems to suggest that they're moving towards militarization so we are concerned," Kim said in a press briefing Thursday.

Kim said the U.S. will continue to do whatever it can to protect international rights and freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce, among others because these are important rights to everybody and not just rights to the U.S.

"We have as you know consistently called on all claimants including China to call on unilateral aggressive actions that are inconsistent with international law and norms. We have called on countries to refrain from reclamation and militarization over claimed lands and we'll continue to do so," Kim added.

Meanwhile, Magdalo Party-list Representative Gary Alejano said China's continuing activities in the disputed waters are "threats to our national security."

"Let us not let China's sweet talks of investments and loans lull us into a false sense of security. Their actions clearly belie their pronouncements," Alejano said in a statement Wednesday.

China earlier said it has the "natural right" to station troops and deploy defense facilities in the islands.

The construction of Chinese air and naval base structures on the Spratly's Islands has been met with criticisms from other claimants in the South China Sea, including the Philippines.

But President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has introduced warmer ties with China, with Duterte repeatedly saying the Philippines cannot afford to go to war with China over the sea dispute.