Land reclamation activities in the South China Sea “fall well within the scope of China’s sovereignty”, a senior Chinese naval commander said on Sunday, urging other nations not to play up the issue.
“There is no reason for people to play up the issue in the South China Sea,” Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army’s general staff, said at the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.
The islets that Beijing is constructing near Nansha Islands, which are also known as Spratly Islands, will enable China to provide “international public services”, including maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, and scientific research, the official said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The new islands “do not target any other countries, or affect freedom of navigation,” Sun was quoted as saying.
He, however, refrained from singling out the United States for criticism in his address and emphasized China’s commitment to peaceful relations.
Sun made no reference to US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s recent criticisms of China, including remarks last week that China is “out of step with internal norms” in forging ahead with its island-building program.
On Sunday, Carter repeated that China was threatening security in the region with its maritime construction work, but acknowledged other claimant countries to the disputed sea were also at fault.
He called on all South China Sea claimants to halt land reclamation activities immediately.
Carter, who was also a participant at the Singapore forum, asserted that US military forces will exercise their right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
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