China will continue build structures on disputed islands in the South China Sea, regardless of foreign opposition.
Navy chief Adm. Wu Shengli told his visiting US counterpart, Adm. John Richardson, that construction work in areas disputed by other countries will proceed, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Wu’s comments came days after a July 12 arbitration tribunal ruling at The Hague rejected Beijing’s historic and economic claims to much of the South China Sea, handing a legal victory to the Philippines, which had brought the case.
The ruling also criticized China’s efforts to build artificial islands in the Spratlys chain, known as Nansha in Chinese.
“We will never stop our construction on the Nansha Islands halfway… no matter what country or person applies pressure,” Wu said.
Wu defended the construction — spanning land reclamation and the building of lighthouses and airstrips — as “justified and lawful” and warned that efforts to coerce China “will only have the opposite effect”, according to state new agency Xinhua.
Monday’s meeting was part of Richardson’s first visit to China as US Navy chief.
On his Twitter account, Richardson said he had a “candid” and “frank” discussion with Wu but did not elaborate.
China has boycotted the arbitration and said it would ignore the ruling but some observers say the verdict could prompt Beijing to start reclaiming land and building facilities on Scarborough Shoal, a South China Sea outcrop also claimed by the Philippines.
The meeting coincided with a Chinese air force statement that it recently flew long-range bomber aircraft near Scarborough Shoal, an uninhabited clump of rocks, sandbars and coral reefs near valuable fishing grounds, also known as Huangyan Island in Chinese.
Such patrols over the South China Sea will become “regular” practice and are part of the PLAAF’s efforts to carry out more realistic combat training, air force spokesman Shen Jinke said.
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