China has defended its construction activities on Fiery Cross Reef, one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing asserted it has the right to build on its territory.
“China carrying out peaceful construction on its own sovereign territory is only to contribute more to the region’s peace, maritime safety, disaster prevention, ocean research, and search and rescue. Of course, China also needs to construct necessary defense equipment for its territory. These equipment are not directed at any particular country,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.
China issued the statement after Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced plans to file a diplomatic protest over China’s militarization of its man-made islands.
Lorenzana’s comment followed a Dec. 30 broadcast of aerial footage by the official China Central Television (CCTV) showing Fiery Cross Reef, which appeared to have been transformed into an airbase.
“The Chinese government said some time ago that they were not going to militarize those reclaimed islands,” Lorenzana told reporters, adding that the protest would be made through the foreign ministry.
“If it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers and even weapons systems, that will be a violation of what they said.”
China and the Philippines have long sparred over the South China Sea, but relations have improved considerably under President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been courting Beijing in hopes of winning business and investment.
China has assured the Philippines it will not occupy new features or territory in the South China Sea, under a new “status quo” brokered by Manila as both sides try to strengthen their relations.
The Philippine military is also planning to build facilities for Filipino fishermen on a Philippine-held island in the Spratlys, a move that Lorenzana hopes won’t anger China. With Reuters
ANC, January 10, 2018