Australia’s Foreign Minister has said that the country does not take sides in the South China Sea dispute but urges peaceful resolution amid reports of China installing missile launchers on one of the contested outposts. Her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi welcomed Australia’s neutrality and said that the reports were created by “certain western media to create news stories”.

“China and Australia share a common interest in the maintenance of peace and security in our region,” said Bishop. She added that she welcomed Wang’s statement that there was no intention on China’s part to militarise the island.

Wang said the “limited and necessary self defence facilities” were in accordance to the principle of self defence in international law. He also pointed to the Chinese construction of lighthouses and rescue facilities which are beneficial to the international community as a whole.

Woody Island. Photo: Google Maps.

The pair met in Beijing on Wednesday during Bishop’s visit to China for the Annual Foreign and Strategic Dialogue, which aims to strengthen relations between the two countries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that the construction of such facilities is an act of national defence, not militarisation, while Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told Reuters that they are acts of militarisation.

Suspected missile developments on Woody Island. Photo: ISI/Fox News.

Vietnam, a country which also claims sovereignty of the disputed islands, is expected to make an announcement by the end of Tuesday, the Guardian reported.

Reports of the missile installation came as some Vietnamese activists chanted anti-China slogans in Hanoi on Wednesday as they commemorated a border war with China 37 years ago.

A Chinese administrative building on Woody Island. Photo: Google maps.

Taiwan, which has claims in the South China Sea, said that their military will be monitoring actions of China.

At a party meeting on Wednesday, President-elect Tsai Ing-wen said: “We urge all sides to maintain the principle of peacefully resolving the South China disputes,” according to Apple Daily.

The reported deployment of surface-to-air missiles came days after US President Barack Obama called for “tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions” following an ASEAN summit.

Hermina Wong

Hermina is a Hong Kong writer and journalist. She graduated with a degree in politics from Cambridge, and is interested in international affairs, particularly those related to China, the EU and the Middle East. She also enjoys political satire.