Beijing puts missiles back on contested South China Sea islands amid rising tension with the United States

Mail Online | 6/11/2018 | Tariq Tahir For Mailonline
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Chinese missiles have reappeared on a disputed island in the South China Sea amid rising tensions with the United States.

Satellite images of Woody Island, China's largest base in the Paracel Islands that are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, taken at the beginning of this month showed the missiles had been removed.

Images - Israeli - Intelligence - Firm - ImageSat

But new images taken by Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) on Friday revealed the missiles are back where they were before.

ISI said when the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile systems were initially removed it was possible they had simply been redeployed to another island, or moved as part of a drill.

Experts - Launchers - Maintenance

Experts were doubtful the launchers had been permanently removed, suggesting they may have been sent for maintenance.

'Due to the corrosive effects of salt and humidity in the islands, must be removed and sent back to the mainland for maintenance periodically,' said Timothy Heath, a senior defence analyst at the Rand Corporation told CNN.

Tensions - United - States - China - Militarisation

Tensions have been rising between the United States and China over its militarisation of the South China Sea.

At the end of last month the Pentagon withdrew its invitation for China to participate in a multinational naval exercise the U.S. is hosting this summer, which it said was a response to the expansion of the Chinese military capability in the area.

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