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​China publically confirmed Oct. 20 it has deployed troops to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, reported UPI. The Chinese airmen are stationed on Woody Island, where China claims to have already established a 1.9-mile airstrip and where satellite imagery has indicated China is secretly deploying HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles. Claim to the Paracel Islands is disputed among China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, and China has denied militarization of the area in the recent past. The US Navy destroyer USS Decatur conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation near Woody and Triton islands in the South China Sea on Oct. 21 in response to what a US official called “excessive maritime claims near the Paracel Islands,” Reuters reported.