The Director of U.S. National Intelligence, James Clapper, has expressed his concern at the progress of China in maritime zones it shares with its neighbors, accused China of expanding its outposts in the South China Sea in an “aggressive” effort to exert sovereignty.
Clapper voiced concern over land reclamation activities in the South China Sea that could further escalate tensions between China and its neighbors over disputed islands, especially with artificial islands being created as aerial platforms, The Associated Press reports.
Beijing rejected the charges saying that China has shown restraint and a responsible attitude in the South China Sea.
"Outsiders have no right to make groundless accusations," foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said. He urged the US to honour its commitments, to be prudent with its words and actions, and do more to contribute to China-US relations and regional peace and stability.
At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Clapper said that China was adopting a very aggressive role in the South China Sea with
the construction of artificial islands on previously uninhabited atolls, pointing to a worrying trend.
According to Clapper, examples such as the transformation of the Hughes Reef, in the disputed Spratly Islands (called Nansha in Chinese), demonstrates China`s intention of consolidating its maritime expansion with the construction of airfields, Efe news agency reported.
Beijing claims the South China Sea in its entirety, while other countries including the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei Darussalam also have claims to the area and are in dispute with China