The United States has urged China to reaffirm that the country has no plans to deploy military aircraft in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
The comments Tuesday came two days after Beijing used a military plane to evacuate sick workers from a new airstrip on an island it has created in the disputed waters, Reuters reported.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said it is “difficult to understand” why China had to use a military aircraft for the evacuation.
It was “a problem” that the workers had apparently been working on “infrastructure improvements of a military nature”, he was quoted as saying at a regular news briefing.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, called on China to clarify its intentions.
“We urge China to reaffirm that it has no plans to deploy or rotate military aircraft at its outposts in the Spratlys, in keeping with China’s prior assurances,” spokesman Gary Ross said.
He also called on all rivals in the South China Sea to clarify their claims in accordance with international law and “to avoid unilateral actions that change the status quo.”
China’s defense ministry earlier dismissed Washington’s queries as to why Beijing had used a military aircraft rather than a civilian one in Sunday’s evacuation from Fiery Cross Reef.
Beijing has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the US has no right to comment on Chinese building works and defensive facilities there, the ministry said.
It said it was Chinese military tradition to “wholeheartedly serve the people” and help those in need.
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