China Warns "Peace Will Be Impacted" If Trump Violates "One China", Installs Weapons On Disputed Islands

If anyone thought that China would blissfully ignore Trump's diplomatic snub, in which the President-elect most recently stated over the weekend that he could use the "One China" principle as a bargaining chip to extract trade concessions from Beijing, they may want to reconsider. As we already pointed out, China overnight warned that a US carmaker (ostensibly GM) would be penalized for "monopolist behavior" and in a China Daily editorial, Beijing urged Trump to recognize the importance of close economic ties between China and the United States rather than "trying to gain an upper hand in what is essentially a win-win relationship".

"History proves that what is good for Sino-U.S. relations is good for their economies," it said, noting that Chinese customers bought more than a third of the 9.96 million vehicles GM sold worldwide last year.

That was just the start of the warnings.

In a separate statement, China warned on Wednesday that any interference with or damage to the "one China" principle would have a serious impact on peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. An Fengshan, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news conference the Taiwan issue was about China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"Upholding the 'one China' principle is the political basis of developing China-U.S. relations, and is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," he said.

"If this basis is interfered with or damaged then the healthy, stable development of China-U.S. relations is out of the question, and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait will be seriously impacted," An said, with an emphasis on peace.

At the same time, Taiwan's policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said peaceful relations were a mutual responsibility across both sides of the Taiwan Strait. "Taiwan has repeatedly stressed that maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and throughout the region is in the best interests of all parties," said council spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng. "Taiwan places equal weight on the development of Taiwan-U.S. relations and cross-strait relations."

China has repeatedly warned that hard-won peace and stability across the narrow strait that separates them could be affected by any moves toward independence.

"I think the facts tell these people that Taiwan independence is a dead end," An said.

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Meanwhile, according to a separate note from Reuters, China's verbal warnings are being increasingly substantiated by actual deeds, and based on a report by a US think tank, citing new satellite imagery, China appears to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said its findings come "despite statements by the Chinese leadership that Beijing has no intention to militarize the islands in the strategic trade route, where territory is claimed by several countries."

AMTI said it had been tracking construction of hexagonal structures on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs in the Spratly Islands since June and July. China has already built military length airstrips on these islands.

"It now seems that these structures are an evolution of point-defense fortifications already constructed at China’s smaller facilities on Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, and Cuarteron reefs," it said citing images taken in November and made available to Reuters. "This model has gone through another evolution at (the) much-larger bases on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs."

Satellite images of Hughes and Gaven reefs showed what appeared to be anti-aircraft guns and what were likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) to protect against cruise missile strikes, it said. Images from Fiery Cross Reef showed towers that likely contained targeting radar, it said.

AMTI said covers had been installed on the towers at Fiery Cross, but the size of platforms on these and the covers suggested they concealed defense systems similar to those at the smaller reefs. "These gun and probable CIWS emplacements show that Beijing is serious about defense of its artificial islands in case of an armed contingency in the South China Sea," it said. "Among other things, they would be the last line of defense against cruise missiles launched by the United States or others against these soon-to-be-operational air bases."

AMTI director Greg Poling said AMTI had spent months trying to figure out what the purposes of the structures was. "This is the first time that we're confident in saying they are anti-aircraft and CIWS emplacements. We did not know that they had systems this big and this advanced there," he told Reuters.

In a troubling assessment, Poling added that "this is militarization. The Chinese can argue that it's only for defensive purposes, but if you are building giant anti-aircraft gun and CIWS emplacements, it means that you are prepping for a future conflict."

"They keep saying they are not militarizing, but they could deploy fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles tomorrow if they wanted to," he said. "Now they have all the infrastructure in place for these interlocking rings of defense and power projection."The report said the installations would likely back up a defensive umbrella provided by a future deployment of mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) platforms like the HQ-9 system deployed to Woody Island in the Paracel Islands, farther to the north in the South China Sea.

It forecast that such a deployment could happen "at any time," noting a recent Fox News report that components for SAM systems have been spotted at the southeastern Chinese port of Jieyang, possibly destined for the South China Sea.

China has said military construction on the islands will be limited to necessary defensive requirements.

The United States has criticized what it called China's militarization of its maritime outposts and stressed the need for freedom of navigation by conducting periodic air and naval patrols near them that have angered Beijing.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has also criticized Chinese behavior in the South China Sea while signaling he may adopt a tougher approach to China's assertive behavior in the region than President Barack Obama. It remains to be seen how he will react to news that China has now officially "militarized" the contested islands in the South China Sea.