China’s activities in the South China Sea have proven to be one of the most contentious geopolitical issues of the Trump Presidency. Leading up to a successful summit in Singapore between President Trump and North Korean leader Chairman Kim Jong Un, new data released by Israeli Private Intelligence Firm ImageSat shows that China removed anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles from Woody Island, in the South China Sea last week.
Woody Island, also referred to as Yongxiang Island, is the largest of the Paracel Islands claimed by China in the South China Sea. In recent years, China has taken major steps to heavily fortify the island, building runways for military aircraft and installing anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, much to the dismay of the United States and our Asia-Pacific allies. The unusual and sudden move to remove the missiles from the South China Sea, one of the most critical stretches of ocean in the world, is widely seen by policy experts as a nod of approval to President Trump, leading up to a successful Summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore on Tuesday.
Amid a cancellation of joint US-South Korea military drills near the Korean Peninsula and a decrease of tensions with North Korea, much of America’s attention is likely to be turned to the South China Sea, as President Trump pursues a foreign policy that considers both military force and economics in every foreign affair.
According to a 2015 Department of Defense estimate, $5.3 Trillion worth of goods move through the South China Sea every year. Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense James “Mad-Dog” Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea, and vowed that America will “compete vigorously” in the area.
The removal of missiles from the South China Sea marks a major victory for President Trump, who has long been seeking to completely demilitarize the critical trade route.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated Xi Jinping removed missiles from South China Sea after the Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore. A correction was made noting the satellite imagery from Israeli private intel firm ImageSat is dated June 3rd, therefore the missiles were removed shortly before the Singapore Summit. This is still seen as a nod to President Trump’s efforts in the region.