China began operating a lighthouse Tuesday on Subi Reef, one of the county’s artificial islands in the South China Sea. The lighthouse is near the area where a U.S. guided missile destroyer sailed last October in the disputed region, infuriating Beijing.
A “completion ceremony” was held for the lighthouse, which went under construction last October, earlier in the day, Xinhua News reported. The lighthouse is capable of providing positioning reference, route guidance and navigation safety information to ships, according to the official press agency.
China’s construction in the South China Sea helped Beijing carry out international obligations in terms of maritime safety, search and rescue and scientific research, the report added. The region is an important maritime area and major fishing ground, according to Xinhua.
The South China Sea region has been long contested, with Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam laying claim to various areas. The world’s second-largest economy has been expanding its presence in the disputed area and has consistently defended its actions, saying it does not have any intentions of starting a conflict and that its military presence will maintain safety in the region.
Late October, the U.S. angered Beijing by sending USS Lassen guided missile destroyer within territorial waters claimed by China. China's foreign ministry said at the time that the country expressed its “strong discontent” and “resolute opposition” to the U.S. action, which it argued threatened the sovereignty and security interests of China. Washington has been regularly sending ships to the South China Sea under the freedom of navigation patrols much to Beijing’s dislike.
China has deployed YJ-62 subsonic anti-ship cruise missile in South China Sea’s Woody Island. The anti-ship cruise missile was likely deployed at about the same time China’s HQ-9 surface-to-air missile system was first detected on the island in February.
Meanwhile, Japan said Tuesday it will dispatch its JDS Ise helicopter destroyer through the South China Sea to take part in a multinational maritime exercise to be hosted by the Indonesian navy between April 12 and April 16, Japan’s Jiji Press reported. While, the destroyer’s participation in the drills is not related to America’s freedom of navigation operation near Chinese artificial islands, the move could be viewed as a joint effort by Japan and the U.S. to counter China’s growing presence in the South China Sea, the report added.