China's activities in the disputed South China Sea are likely to raise tensions ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to the United States Tuesday, especially as a Washington-based think-tank said that Beijing was installing a high-frequency radar system in the Spratly Islands.
The Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report that two towers, likely to be radar towers, have been built on an artificial island in the Cuarteron Reef in the South China Sea, while several 20-meter poles have also been erected.
"These poles could be a high-frequency radar installation, which would significantly bolster China's ability to monitor surface and air traffic across the southern portion of the South China Sea," the report said.
The U.S. think-tank also said that China had constructed "a buried bunker and lighthouse on the northern portion of the feature, a number of buildings and a helipad in its centre, communications equipment to the south, and a quay with a loading crane on the western end of the outpost."
The report comes days after satellite imagery reportedly showed that China had deployed missile systems on one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea. Following U.S.' stern reaction to the alleged missile deployment, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that "China's deploying necessary, limited defensive facilities on its own territory is not substantively different from the United States defending Hawaii," according to Reuters.
China has been critical of the United States' presence in the South China Sea, including recent fly-pasts and sail-pasts of US aircrafts and warships close to the disputed islands.
"The U.S. is not involved in the South China Sea dispute, and this is not and should not become a problem between China and the United States," Hua said.
In an article on Tuesday, Xinhua reported that the Chinese foreign minister will discuss the South China Sea issue in Washington.
"It is Washington that is fanning up the flames by flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and by emboldening nations in their territorial disputes with China. Washington, at the same time, should stop pointing a finger at China over the construction of facilities on its sovereign islands in the South China Sea as these activities, for civil or military purposes, are totally legitimate," the article said.