China installs rocket launchers on disputed South China Sea island
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy. Reuters

China has installed rocket launchers on a disputed reef in the South China Sea to protect it from the Vietnamese military combat divers, according to a state-run newspaper. This comes as the latest details on China's ongoing military build-up.

The country has said that military construction on the islands it controls in the conflicted waters of the South China Sea will be limited to necessary defensive requirements, adding that it can do what it likes on its own territory.

The United States has criticized China's militarisation of its maritime outposts. It stressed the need for freedom of navigation by conducting periodic air and naval patrols near them that have angered Beijing.

On Tuesday, the state-run Defence Times newspaper reported on its WeChat account that Norinco CS/AR-1 55mm anti-frogman rocket launcher defence systems had been installed on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. It has the capability to discover, identify and attack enemy combat divers.

Although, Fiery Cross Reef is administered by China but, it is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The report did not mention the date when the defence system was installed. But, it said the installation was a part of a response that began in May 2014, when Vietnamese divers installed large numbers of fishing nets in the Paracel Islands.

China has conducted extensive land reclamation work at Fiery Cross Reef, including building an airport, one of several Chinese-controlled features in the South China Sea where China has carried out such work.

China claims nearly whole of the strategically vital waterway, despite partial counter-claims from several regional states such as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. Every year, more than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the disputed waterway.