BEIJING -- A U.S. think tank says recent images appear to show that China has installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its man-made islands in the South China Sea.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report late Wednesday that the anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems designed to guard against missile attack have been placed on all seven of China’s newly created islands.
The outposts were built in recent years by piling sand on top of coral reefs followed by the construction of airstrips， barracks， and radar stations and other infrastructure.
Beijing says the islands are intended to boost maritime safety in the region. They also mark its claim to ownership of practically the entire South China Sea， its islands， reefs and other maritime features.
In a statement， China’s Defense Ministry repeated that development on the islands was mainly for civilian purposes， but added that defensive measures were “appropriate and legal.”
“For example， were someone to be threatening you with armed force outside your front door， would you not get ready even a slingshot?” the ministry statement said.
Foreign M about the reported weaponry， but said such deployments were China’s sovereign right.