China’s island-building ‘justified and reasonable’, says admiral

Beijing’s South China Sea ambitions have made its neighbours anxious

Online footage has shown the Chinese building, on the Fiery Cross Reef in the area, what looks like an airstrip and facilities, which the US navy calls the “Great Wall of Sand”. Photograph: United States Navy via the New York Times

Online footage has shown the Chinese building, on the Fiery Cross Reef in the area, what looks like an airstrip and facilities, which the US navy calls the “Great Wall of Sand”. Photograph: United States Navy via the New York Times

 

China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea have got its neighbours rattled and ratcheted up tensions in the region, but a top admiral said the construction work was “justified, legitimate and reasonable”, and that the projects were aimed at providing “international public services”.

Admiral Sun Jianguo, who is the deputy chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told a security summit in Singapore at the weekend that the construction projects fell well within the scope of China’s sovereignty.

“There are no changes in China’s claims in the South China Sea, no changes in China’s position on peaceful resolution of the relevant disputes through negotiation and consultation, no changes in China’s will to safeguard the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea, and no changes in China’s goal to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Sun said.

Online footage has shown the Chinese building, on the Fiery Cross Reef in the area, what looks like an airstrip and facilities, which the US navy calls the “Great Wall of Sand”.

Territorial disputes

Vietnam

The admiral said China was showing restraint.

“In spite of the sufficient historical and legal evidence and its indisputable claims of rights and interests, China has exercised enormous restraint, making positive contributions to peace and stability of the region and the world at large,” he said.

Late last month, China said in a policy document that it wants to continue to expand its navy, news that did little to ease tensions with its neighbours.

There are growing signs of potential clashes in the area. Senator John McCain said that US ships and aircraft should ignore the 12-nautical-mile zone around the artificial islands.

“If we respected a 12-mile zone, then we would be making a mistake of enormous proportions because that would be de facto recognition of Chinese sovereignty,” said McCain, a Republican former presidential candidate who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

US defence secretary Ashton Carter accused China of being “out of step” with international norms amid the unprecedented pace of island reclamation.

“It is unclear how much farther China will go,” Mr Carter told the same same security gathering, called the Shangri-La Dialogue.

China has been similarly critical of US efforts to increase its influence in Asia. In particular it has voiced its concern over the so-called “Asia Pivot”, which Beijing believes is aimed at undermining China’s growing power in the region.