A Chinese Coast Guard ship (top) is seen near a Vietnam Marine Guard ship in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam, in this May 14, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh/Files
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Beijing is installing radar facilities on its artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, an American think tank has said, in a move analysts warned would "exponentially improve" the country's monitoring capacities.The U.S. has in recent months sent warships to sail within 12 nautical miles -- the usual territorial limit around natural land -- of a disputed island and one of China's artificial constructions in what it says is a defense of the right to free passage.Asked about the radar installations, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday that the area was Chinese territory "beyond dispute" and Beijing was entitled under international law to the "necessary and limited deployment of defense facilities".Beijing says it defends the right to free passage, and insists its island building has civilian purposes, such as search and rescue facilities, as well as military.A host of installations with potential military use are being developed, according to CSIS, including as many as three runways -- at least one of them 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) long.
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