MOSCOW, November 24 (Sputnik) – China has come out and said that its land reclamation project on the reef off the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea is aimed at improving living conditions of Chinese nationals there, as well as to increase Beijing’s capabilities to assist in international search and rescue efforts, Reuters reports, citing the country’s official.
“The construction-related activities undertaken by China on the islands are primarily to improve the living conditions of personnel stationed there and to better fulfill our international responsibilities and obligations in terms of search and rescue and the provision of public services,” Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated during a daily news briefing, as quoted by Reuters.
Earlier on Monday, People’s Liberation Army Major General Luo Yuan called the project “completely legitimate and justifiable”, adding that “China is likely to withstand the international pressure and continue the construction” in an interview with the Global Post.
Last week IHS Jane’s reported that China was building a 3,000 meter (9,840 feet) long island and a harbor on Fiery Cross Reef off the Spratly Islands, according to satellite imagery taken in August and early November. The Spratly archipelago is controlled by China's People's Liberation Army, but the islands are also claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The current reclamation project is the fourth that Beijing has launched in the last 12 – 18 months. The defense consultancy said it was China’s largest project on the islands. It believes China could use the newly built stretch of land as a military airstrip.
On Friday, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Pool, a US military spokesman, urged “China to stop its land reclamation program, and engage in diplomatic initiatives to encourage all sides to restrain themselves in these sorts of activities,” as quoted by AFP.
“I think anyone in the outside world has no right to make irresponsible remarks on China-related activities,” Hua Chunying stressed, referring to the abovementioned comments. She stressed that Beijing enjoyed “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands.
China has been locked in several territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Hua Chunying reiterated that Beijing is determined to resolve such disputes peacefully, echoing a statement made by the country’s President Xi Jinping recently. “It is China’s long-standing position to address peacefully its disputes with countries concerned and territorial sovereignty and maritime interests through dialogue and consultation,” in an address to the Australian parliament, as quoted by AFP.