The numerous overlapping sovereign claims to islands and reefs have turned the South China Sea into an armed camp. Beijing now has 27 outposts in the sea.
Date: July 1, 2019
By: Amanda Macias, CNBC and Courtney Kube
WASHINGTON — China has been conducting a series of anti-ship ballistic missile tests in the hotly contested waters of the South China Sea, according to two U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.
The Chinese carried out the first test over the weekend, firing off at least one missile into the sea, one official said. The window for testing remains open until July 3, and the official expects the Chinese military to test again before it closes.
While the U.S. military has ships in the South China Sea, they were not close to the weekend test and are not in danger, the official said, adding that the test however is "concerning." The official, who was not authorized to speak about the testing, could not say whether the anti-ship missiles being tested represent a new capability for the Chinese military.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC's and NBC's requests for comment.
The development comes as the United States and China have paused tensions in their ongoing trade battle. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed over the weekend at the G-20 summit in Japan to not impose new tariffs on each other's goods. A trade deal between the two countries fell through in the beginning of May.
The South China Sea, which is home to more than 200 specks of land, serves as a gateway to global sea routes where approximately $3.4 trillion of trade passes annually.
The numerous overlapping sovereign claims to islands, reefs and rocks — many of which disappear under high tide — have turned the waters into an armed camp. Beijing holds the lion's share of these features with approximately 27 outposts peppered throughout.
In May 2018, China quietly installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its fortified outposts west of the Philippines in the South China Sea, a move that allows Beijing to further project its power in the hotly disputed waters, according to sources with direct knowledge of U.S. intelligence reports. [FULL STORY]