China has justified its reclamation work on some disputed islands in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, saying they would be used for military defense and to provide civilian services that would benefit other countries.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defended China’s island-building work in contested waters saying that it was being used for maritime purposes and not aimed at making claims at the expense of other nations.
"We are building shelters, aids for navigation, search and rescue as well as marine meteorological forecasting services, fishery services and other administrative services so as to provide the necessary services to China, neighboring countries and individual vessels sailing the South China
Sea," Hua said.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.
China says large sections of the South China Sea are its territory, including the waters containing the Spratly and Paracel Islands, despite competing claims from Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and other nations.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and adjacent waters,” Ms. Hua said, using the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands.
The Philippines – one of the most vocal of China's neighbours in defending its competing territorial claim – reacted strongly, calling for the Asian giant to "dismantle" the reclaimed land.
"They have to dismantle it," said Peter Paul Galvez, spokesman for Manila's defense department. "It is a concern not only of our country and region but of the whole international community."
It's rare for China to give such detail about its plans for the artificial islands. The rapid reclamation taking place on seven reefs has alarmed other claimants and drawn U.S. criticism.
The US is concerned China is using "sheer size and muscle" to strong-arm smaller nations in the row over the South China Sea, Barack Obama said. The US president's comments came amid heightened focus on Beijing's construction of artificial islands in disputed areas of the sea.