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Iran Press TV

China not after militarizing disputed islands: Xi to US

Iran Press TV

Sat Sep 26, 2015 9:21AM

China has rejected the US claim that Beijing is seeking to "militarize" artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, stressing that his country is committed to protecting peace in the disputed waters.

"Relevant construction activity that China is undertaking in the Nansha Islands does not target or impact any country and there is no intention to militarize," said China's President Xi Jinping on Friday during a joint press conference with his American counterpart Barack Obama at the White House.

The Chinese leader was reacting to comments by Obama, who expressed concerns during the presser over "land reclamation, construction and the militarization of disputed areas, which makes it harder for countries in the region to resolve disagreements peacefully."

China claims sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The waters are believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas.

The Nansha Islands, known as Spratly Islands by China's rivals, lie at the heart of the South China Sea territorial dispute.

"Islands in the South China Sea since ancient times are Chinese territory," added Xi, stressing, "We have the right to uphold our own territorial sovereignty and lawful legitimate maritime rights and interests."

Washington has sided with China's rivals in the territorial dispute, with Beijing accusing the US of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.

On September 20, British Jane's Defense Weekly published satellite images, alleging that they show China has completed building a runway on a disputed reef, and is moving closer to making it operational.

It also claimed that the completion of the runway could enable China to speed up construction of infrastructure and start conducting aerial patrols over the disputed islands.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has defended the construction work on the islands, saying the projects pursue civilian purposes and are "lawful, reasonable and justified."

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