China yesterday rejected US demands to stop land reclamation at disputed islets in the South China Sea, saying that it was exercising its sovereignty and using the controversial outposts to fulfill international responsibilities.
Chinese People’s Liberation Army Admiral Sun Jianguo (孫建國), deputy chief of the general staff department, told a security summit in Singapore that “the situation in the South China Sea is on the whole peaceful and stable, and there has never been an issue with the freedom of navigation.”
“China has carried out construction on some islands and reefs in the South China Sea mainly for the purpose of improving the functions of the relevant islands and reefs, and the working and living conditions of personnel stationed there,” he said.
“Apart from meeting the necessary defense needs, it is more geared to better perform China’s international responsibilities and obligations regarding maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and relief ... and safety of navigation,” he added.
China insists that it has sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, but rival claimants accuse it of expansionism.
“When dealing with maritime disputes with relevant neighboring countries, China has always kept in mind the larger interest of maritime security,” Sun told the annual Shangri-La Dialogue. “In spite of the sufficient historical and legal evidence and its indisputable claims, rights and interests, China has exercised enormous restraint.”
Sun was speaking a day after US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter demanded an end to all reclamation work.
“There should be an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants,” Carter said. “We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features.”
The Singapore summit, which ended yesterday afternoon, was earlier in the day marred by a brief security lockdown after police shot dead a local motorist who tried to flee a checkpoint near the event venue in a car later found to contain drugs.