China has sent more surface-to-air missiles from the mainland to the South China Sea, and the U.S. intelligence community anticipates these new missiles will eventually go to some of China's disputed territories for the first time, two U.S. officials tell Fox News.
The new missiles have been seen by American intelligence satellites on China's provincial island province of Hainan. While Hainan is not part the disputed islands, officials say this location is "only temporary" and anticipate the missiles will be deployed soon to the contested Spratly Islands or Woody Island.
The two missile systems seen on Hainan island are known as the CSA-6b and HQ-9. The CSA-6b is a combined close in missile system with a range of 10 miles also contains anti-aircraft guns. The longer range HQ-9 system has a range of 125 miles.
This latest deployment of Chinese military equipment comes days after the Chinese returned an unclassified underwater research drone in the South China Sea. The Pentagon accused a Chinese Navy ship of stealing the drone, over the objections of the American crew operating it in international waters to collect oceanographic data.
The escalation comes weeks after President elect-Donald Trump received a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan's president breaking decades long "one-China" protocol and angering Beijing.
China has deployed surface-to-air missiles to Woody Island in the South China Sea before, as Fox News first reported in February.
It has yet to deploy missiles to its seven man-made islands in the Spratly chain of islands. Weeks ago civilian satellite imagery obtained by a Washington, DC based think-tank showed gun emplacement on all the disputed islands, but not missiles.
Earlier this month, Fox News first reported China getting ready to deploy another missile defense system from a port in southeast China. China also flew a long-range bomber around the South China Sea for the first time since March 2015 and days after Mr. Trump's phone call with his Taiwan counterpart.
Days before President Trump's call, a pair of long-range H-6K bombers flew around the island of Taiwan for the first time.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews