© REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool The alleged on-going land reclamation of China at Subi reef is seen from Pagasa island (Thitu Island) in the Spratlys group of islands in the South China Sea
The United States said on Friday that China had placed mobile artillery weapons systems on a reclaimed island in the disputed South China Sea, a development that Republican Sen. John McCain called “disturbing and escalatory.”
Brent Colburn, a Pentagon spokesman traveling with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, said the United States was aware of the weapons.
McCain, chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, said the move would escalate tensions but not lead to conflict.
“It is a disturbing development and escalatory development, one which heightens our need to make the Chinese understand that their actions are in violation of international law and their actions are going to be condemned by everyone in the world,” he said at a news conference in Ho Chi Minh City.
“We are not going to have a conflict with China but we can take certain measures which will be a disincentive to China to continue these kinds of activities,” he said.
In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had no information on the weapons.
U.S. officials say Chinese dredging work has added some 2,000 acres to five outposts in the resource-rich Spratly islands in the South China Sea, including 1,500 acres this year.
It has released surveillance plane footage showing dredgers and other ships busily turning remote outcrops into islands with runways and harbors.
Carter called on Wednesday…