Mon, Oct 19, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Lighthouses pose sovereignty issue

PLOY FOR LEGITIMACY:Beijing built a pair of giant lighthouses on the artificial islands in the South China Sea in a move to legitimize its claims of sovereignty

Reuters, HONG KONG

Trevor Hollingsbee, a retired naval intelligence analyst with Britain’s Ministry of Defense, said building lighthouses on the reclaimed reefs was a “rather cunning” move by China.

“The use of lighthouses is declining everywhere, but there will always be times when their use is unavoidable and that goes for all mariners in the South China Sea,” Hollingsbee said.

Last year’s Sailing Directions for the South China Sea, produced by the US Department of Defense’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, gives extensive details on the Spratlys, including lighthouses, visible wrecks and lagoon entrances — but without citing who has sovereignty over them.

It declares about 135,000km2 as “dangerous ground” due to inadequate surveys and bad weather. It also states that sovereignty in the area is “subject to competing claims, which may be supported by a force of arms.”

China on Saturday sought to defuse tensions with Southeast Asian nations who have competing claims in the South China Sea, including Taiwan.

“We will never recklessly resort to the use of force, even on issues of sovereignty, and have done our utmost to avoid unexpected conflicts,” General Fan Changlong (范長龍), one of the vice chairmen of the China’s Central Military Commission, told ASEAN defense ministers at a security forum in Beijing.

China’s artificial islands “will not affect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” Fan said.

The new lighthouses “have already begun to provide navigation services to all nations,” he added.

Taiwan, as well as four ASEAN members — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — have overlapping claims in the Spratlys.

Gary Roughead, former US chief of naval operations, told the forum that the scale of the ports and airfields China is building in parts of the Spratlys raises legitimate concerns.

“I do not see an influx of tourists clamoring to visit these remote outposts,” he said.

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