"We have seen evidence of surface-to-air missile deployments to Woody Island," a U.S. defense official says, in the first official public comments about China placing a weapons system on a disputed island in the South China Sea.
From Shanghai, NPR's Frank Langfitt reports:
"The missiles appear to be Chinese HQ-9s with a range of more than 100 miles, which would pose a potential threat to aircraft in the area. Woody Island is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
"Taiwan's defense ministry also confirmed the missiles deployment. Taiwan's defense ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. David Lo, said Taiwan 'will closely watch subsequent developments.' "
Responding to reports of the missile deployment, China did not dispute the claim — instead, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says the country's "limited, necessary defense facilities" are in accordance with international laws on self-defense, the state-run People's Daily reports.
Woody Island is part of the Paracel chain, which sits east of Vietnam and southwest of Taiwan.
"The U.S. military has flown surveillance flights around Chinese-claimed islands, which China has called a violation of its sovereignty," Frank reports. He also notes that "news of the missiles came as President Obama wrapped up a meeting with Asian leaders in California that focused on reducing tensions over disputed territory in the South China Sea."