China's military has stepped up militarizing disputed islands in the South China Sea by deploying advanced missile systems on the Spratly islands, according to the Pentagon.
Defense officials disclosed to the Washington Free Beacon that the militarization has raised alarm bells about China's creeping takeover of the strategic waterway used for some $5 trillion annually in international trade.
The officials previewed Defense Department concerns detailed in the forthcoming China military power report. The annual report to Congress is expected to be made public in the near future.
"China is continuing its gradual deployment of military equipment to its Spratly Islands outposts in the disputed South China Sea," said one senior official.
The missiles have been identified as YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles that give the Chinese military the ability to hit ships within 340 miles—enough to target U.S. warships that frequently transit the waters in conducting freedom of navigation operations.