The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended the government’s decision to build lighthouses on disputed islands in the South China Sea, saying the facilities are to help navigation.
Chinese media outlets reported on Thursday that the country is planning to build lighthouses on five islands in the South China Sea.
The islands are known as North Reef (北礁), Antelope Reef (Lingyang Reef, 羚羊礁), Drummond Island (Jincing Island, 晉卿島), South Sand (南沙洲) and Pyramid Rock (Gao Jianshih, 高尖石), all of which Taiwan also claims, and include two that appear to be in waters also claimed by Vietnam.
Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Web site late on Friday that the lighthouses were “necessary measures to guarantee the safety of vessel traffic” and were both in the public’s interest and compliant with international law.
The US and the Philippines have called for a voluntary freeze on any “status quo” changing moves by disputants in the area, but China has rejected the proposal.
Washington is also attempting to use this weekend’s ASEAN regional forum in Myanmar to lobby foreign ministers from Southeast Asian nations to pressure China to come to the negotiating table.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea and has recently begun to aggressively enforce its territorial claims.
In May, China moved an oil rig into waters disputed by Taiwan and Vietnam, backed up by a flotilla of warships and fishing boats, which resulted in a Vietnamese fishing vessel being sunk and anti-Chinese riots erupting in Vietnam.
The Philippines has also accused China of building a landing strip on a shoal it claims as part of its territory. Taiwan also claims the shoal.
The Xinhua news agency reported yesterday that Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) met his counterparts from some Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, on the sidelines of the summit in Myanmar.
Wang told Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh that China would take “all necessary means to safeguard national sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” and urged Vietnam to properly deal with the aftermath of the anti-China riots, the report said.
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