A Chinese fighter plane has been spotted on one of the Chinese-held islands in the Disputed South China Sea, the first sighting for this year that further proves the militarization of the occupied islands.
The J-11 fighter according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) was visible in a satellite image which was taken at the Woody Island in the Paracel island chains on March 29.
AMTI Director Greg Poling said that “This isn’t a first, but it’s the first time in a year,” referring to the spotted J-11 fighter plane of China. He further adds: “There are likely more in the hangars nearby.”
Poling said that it is unclear on how long the plane has been stationed in the island.
Deployment of Chinese fighter jets in the Woody Island is a part of a trend in the militarization of the Chinese occupied islands which is a grave concern on the intentions of Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.
Previous deployment of defense equipment on disputed islands was defended by China’s Premier Le Keqiang which said that those were necessities to maintain “freedom of navigation”
The Chinese embassy in Washington has not responded for comments on the issue. China had earlier rejected the U.S. claims that Beijing is militarizing the South China Sea.
Earlier on Thursday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to occupy uninhabited islands and shoals within its territory. It is expected that the move would anger China and may once again strain the fragile relations between China and the Philippines.