WASHINGTON – The United States said Friday that China conducted missile drills in the disputed Paracels archipelago in the South China Sea even before its recent deployment of an advanced surface-to-air missile system there.
“We have seen them conduct training in that part of the Paracels that have involved this kind of equipment in the past,” Defense Department press secretary Peter Cook said in a news conference.
Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift said in a speech Thursday that the latest deployment is at least the third time that Woody Island in the Paracels has housed HQ-9 missiles, according to the Military.com website.
China had sent missiles to the island twice previously for exercises and in one of the exercises China actually employed the weapons system, using an HQ-9 missile to shoot down a drone, according to the site.
The remarks followed the confirmation Wednesday by the United States and Taiwan, which claims the Beijing-controlled island, of the deployment.
The island, known as Yongxing in Chinese, is also claimed by Vietnam, which calls it Phu Lam.