WASHINGTON, April 6 A Chinese fighter plane has
been spotted on a Chinese-held island in the South China Sea,
the first such deployment seen this year, a U.S. think tank
reported on Thursday.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of
Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies,
said the J-11 fighter was visible in a satellite image taken on
March 29 of Woody Island in the Paracel island chain.
News of the deployment came as U.S. President Donald Trump
was due to hold his first meetings with China's President Xi
Jinping in Florida on Thursday and Friday at which he is
expected to air U.S. concerns about China's pursuit of territory
and militarization of outposts in the South China Sea.
"This isn’t a first, but it’s the first time in a year,"
AMTI director Greg Poling said of the fighter deployment.
Referring to the single fighter plane visible in the image,
he said: "There are likely more in the hangars nearby."
Poling said it was unclear how long the plane had been
there, but added that similar deployments on artificial islands
China has built further south in the South China Sea's Spratly
archipelago now that military facilities had been completed
The United States has said in the past that deployments of
Chinese fighter jets to Woody Island were part of a disturbing
trend of militarization that raised questions about Beijing's
intentions in the South China Sea, which is an important trade
The Chinese embassy in Washington was not immediately
available for comment.
China has previously denied U.S. charges that it is
militarizing the South China Sea. In March, Premier Li Keqiang
said defense equipment had been placed on islands in the
disputed waterway to maintain "freedom of navigation."
A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said
the presence of a fighter aircraft on Woody Island was not
"It is already heavily militarized; no surprise we would be
seeing military aircraft there,” the official said.
Earlier on Thursday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
said he had ordered troops to occupy uninhabited islands and
shoals it claims in the South China Sea, something likely to
anger China, which claims most of the strategic waterway.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Idrees
Ali; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)