The Chinese military has stationed airmen in the Paracel Islands, also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. Image Courtesy of Google Maps
HONG KONG, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- China confirmed it has stationed troops in the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing's People's Liberation Army Daily reported on Thursday the Chinese military has deployed airmen on Woody Island, also known as Yongxing Island in China.
The report comes more than a year after Chinese President Xi Jinping said China is not pursuing militarization of another cluster of islands, the Spratlys, during his state visit in September 2015.
At the time China had already broken a pledge to halt reclamation and had built three runways on artificial islands at the Fiery Cross and Subi reefs.
The air force of China's South China Sea fleet is to monitor all activities near the Paracel Islands from its vantage point on Woody Island.
The Paracels are also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, but China has already built a 1.9-mile airstrip on Woody Island, according to PLA Daily.
In February, Fox News reported the Chinese military had deployed a system of advanced surface-to-air missiles, the HQ-9 air defense system, in the Paracels.
The missiles were being clandestinely deployed on Woody Island, according to satellite imagery.
In 2015, China stated military training was taking place on the island, but this is the first time Beijing acknowledged the presence of troops.
As China has shown few signs from retracting sovereignty over South China Sea islands, some of its neighbors are taking a different approach to relations.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte did not make the South China Sea dispute the focus of conversation during a state visit this week, the BBC reported.
"The two sides briefly mentioned the South China Sea. Both sides agreed that this issue is not the sum total of bilateral relations," said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, adding the two sides agreed on a "settlement through bilateral dialogue."