Despite US President Barack Obama’s warning thatthe land reclamation work in the strategically important South China Sea would affect peaceful resolution of maritime disputes in the area, China might press on, reports SCMP.
Obama said he had “candid” discussions with President Xi Jinping on Asia-Pacific disputes
, voicing concerns about Chinese militarisation of artificial islands in the waters where China has competing territorial claims with several Southeast Asian neighbours.
Xi denied there was a military build-up but added that the islands in the area were Chinese territory from “ancient times” and Beijing had the right to uphold its maritime rights.
He said that China was entitled to build structures on disputed atolls in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea but did not intend to militarize them. Observers say that China needs those artificial islands and airstrips in the South China Sea, because [the area] is a supply base for its navy and air force in the Asia-Pacific.
Obama said he is confident that the United States and China have the ability to manage differences, and that competition between the two countries is constructive and positive.
Meanwhile, US secretary of defense, Ashton Carter
, said Washington was already moving ahead to prepare for a potential conflict with China in the disputed South China Sea region, Russia's Tass news agency reports.
Carter noted that China is turning submerged reefs into airfields and military bases through land reclamation to bolster its sovereignty claims in the region, where territory is claimed by several different parties. At the same time, he also said that it is time for the US to demand China slow down its militarization of the Spratly islands while promoting new diplomacy to protects the rights and interests of all countries in the region.
Tensions are rising over maritime disputes in the South China Sea, with claimants (including China, Vietnam, and the Philippines) accusing each other of destabilizing actions and the U.S. warning against the use of coercion.