Hong Kong: Vietnam has deployed rocket launchers in the Spratly islands of the disputed South China Sea, claim officials of Western nations. They also reported that these state-of-the-art launchers are capable of striking the runways and military installations on the islands artificially constructed by China.
Speaking to a news agency, the Western officials said that over the last few weeks Vietnam has taken discreet and cautious steps to beef up the security of its islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese Security forces have moved the mobile rocket launchers to five of the islands in the Spratly archipelago. Although as of date the launchers are not armed with rockets, they could be made operational in the next few days, the officials added.
Three officials connected with these moves on the part of Vietnam informed about this deployment. The rocket launchers have been hidden so as to elude air surveillance, they said adding that they had definitive news all the same, that the rocket launchers had left for the Spratly islands, asserted the officials. However, it is as yet not known to exactly which of the Spratly islands the launchers have been moved. Moreover the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry stated that the information was inaccurate and has avoided any elaboration on the issue.
Apart from China, the nation`s staking claims to the South China Sea region are Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan of which Vietnam had already warned that it was taking essential steps to safeguard its interests in the South China Sea. Vietnam has both island and maritime claims in this region.
In the ‘Shangri-La’ summit held in Singapore, the Deputy Defence Minister of Vietnam, Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh had, in consideration of these events, issued a warning to China. Indicating at the time, that Vietnam could deploy rocket launchers to the Spratly islands, Nguyen Chi Vinh had said, “It is well within our legitimate rights to move any weapon to any place to protect our sovereign territory.”
At present the Vietnamese military possesses the Russian made long range rocket launchers and the ‘Harpoon’ rocket launcher system made by ‘Boeing’, the American company. The Harpoon is mounted on the mobile launchers of the military and the naval destroyers. A few months ago, Vietnam is known to have purchased the ‘Extra’ rocket artillery system from Israel. These launchers have the capacity to strike a target at 150 km and carry warheads with explosives weighing 150 kg. Besides, these launchers can attack simultaneously, multiple targets like drones on air patrol, destroyers as well as surface targets.
The Runways, the radar system and other military installation on China’s artificial islands at the ‘Fiery Cross’ reef, the ‘Subi’ reef and the ‘Mischief’ reef find themselves within range of Vietnam’s launchers. It was four days ago that a US study group reported that on these very islands China had constructed hangars to deploy fighter planes. This study group alleges that the construction of hangars on China’s part is a gesture sending out signals of war against the US along and the nations of South-East Asia that have staked claims to the South China Sea. On this background, Vietnam’s deployment of rocket launchers capable of targeting China’s islands in question, only indicates that Vietnam, ready with a befitting reply, is evidently staring down at the aggressive China.
This deployment on Vietnam’s part also implies that the US, Japan and Australia have been providing support to Vietnam and other South-East Asian countries and this fact has in fact doubled the confidence of an aggressive country like Vietnam.
— Samir Dattopadhye (@samirsinh189) August 13, 2016