China installs rocket-launchers on disputed SCS reef

17 May 2017 | By Gaurav Jeyaraman

China has installed rocket launchers on a disputed reef in the South China Sea, in the latest move that has sparked fresh tensions in the region.

China installed Norinco CS/AR-1 55mm anti-frogman rocket launcher defense systems on the disputed Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.

They justified the move saying it was on Chinese territory to deter Vietnamese combat-divers.

In context: South China Sea on the boil again

The DisputeWhat is the South China Sea dispute about?

The South China dispute is over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, particularly along the Paracel and the Spratly island chains.

These island chains are claimed by a number of countries in the region including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

The islands lie among the world's busiest shipping lanes and have vast mineral resources around them, making them highly strategic assets.

Claims Who claims what?

China claims the largest amount of territory and issued maps in 1947, claiming the Paracel and Spratly islands were Chinese territory.

Vietnam disputes China's claims stating it has ruled the islands since the 17th century.

The Philippines claims the islands citing geographical proximity, while Indonesia claims the Natuna islands.

Malaysia and Brunei claim territory in the region citing the EEZ provisions in the UNCLOS.

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FlashpointsSome of the flashpoints in the dispute

In 1974 and 1988 China and Vietnam engaged militarily over the Paracel ad Spratly islands, with Vietnam losing over 130 sailors.

In 2012 China exacerbated tensions in the region by building the Sansha City in the Paracel to "govern interests in the SCS".

In 2015 China began construction of airstrips in the Spratly, following which the US sailed a guided-missile destroyer into the region.

China claims 90% of SCS

China claims 90% of the South China Sea based on the "nine-dash-line" drawn in the 1940s. It loops to a point about 1,800kms south of China's Hainan Island. Beijing has also built airstrips and military infrastructure on several disputed islands to enforce its claim.

17 May 2017China installs rocket-launchers on disputed SCS reef

DetailsFirey cross reef: Disputed claims

Firey Cross Reef is disputed between China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

To enforce its authority on the region, China began constructing military infrastructure on the reef in 2014.

China even conducted extensive land reclamation and built an airport on the disputed territory.

They said it was in response to Vietnam installing large fishing nets off the Paracel islands.