(National Sentinel)Â De-escalation: In what appears to be a direct result of White House diplomacy, China removed anti-aircraft missile batteries from one of its reclaimed islands in the South China Sea last week, ahead of President Donald Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The removal of the missile batteries from Woody Island, in the Paracels chain, was discovered by IsraeliÂ intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI). The image was taken June 3.
The Washington Times notes:
The Chinese militarization of the South China Sea has been happening for some time. Since the weak Obama administration wouldnâ€™t stand up to any dictator, the Chinese, along with other adversaries, probably just said â€œWhy not?â€ and proceeded with their malignant behavior in creating the ability to block traffic in one of the worldâ€™s busiest sea lanes.
Anti-ship missile batteries, anti-aircraft defense systems, fighter jets and bombers have all been sighted on the atolls in the region that China has claimed and fortified.
Satellite imagery and new analysis from Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI), dated June 3, suggested the Chinese surface-to-air missile systems on Woody Island, in the Paracel Islands, may have been removed or relocated, The South China Morning Post reported.
Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie declared the Chinese may have removed them for maintenance purposes, or simply hidden them inside buildings, only to be redeployed again later, wrote SCMP.
â€œWith the increasingly tense relations between the two countries, itâ€™s understandable that we make a little gesture of compromise,â€ said Li.
â€œItâ€™s not wise for China to directly confront the U.S. We shall decide later [on possible redeployment] after the tensions go down.
â€œItâ€™s better that we make three steps forward and two steps back, because both sides are still restrained and neither side wants to go to war,â€ wrote SCMP, quoting Ni Lexiong, a naval expert with Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.
The South China Morning PostÂ is no official mouthpiece of the Chinese government. Based in Hong Kong, it has some degree of press autonomy. Still, Beijing essentially ‘allowed’ the report to be published, so that its gesture would be noticed.
But was it tied to the summit? Possibly.
It should be noted that POTUS Trump and China signed a deal recentlyÂ withÂ Chinese telecomÂ company ZTE, extracting fines and monitoring in a face-saving measure for both sides.
So the removal of the missiles could also be tied to that gesture of goodwill by the president.
But the point regarding the difference in diplomacy between the Obama and Trump administrations is spot-on: Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the latter of whom will be traveling to China in the coming days, have made it clear the U.S. will not back down in the South China Sea and simply cede the entire body of water to Beijing.
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