DAILY SIGNAL — The U.S. government has reported that China has deployed several batteries of surface-to-air missiles (HQ-9) to Woody Island, Paracels, in the South China Sea. This is a significant military move, and it makes clear that China is prepared to employ military forces to support its expansive claims to the South China Sea.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has previously deployed some of its advanced fighters (J-11 fighters, the domestic version of the Su-27) to Woody island but did not apparently make this permanent. This surface-to-air missiles deployment appears to be for the longer term.
The HQ-9 is the Chinese equivalent of the Russian S-300/SA-10 SAM, a very advanced, very capable system comparable to the American Patriot SAM. Its deployment creates a 125-mile danger zone around the Paracels and marks a major increase in the scale and capabilities of forces deployed to the region.
While the Paracels are not the Spratlys (where China has built a number of artificial islands), they are part of the larger dispute underway about the future of the South China Sea.