Beijing Doubles Down on South China Sea Defense Buildup
23:22 03.03.2017(updated 23:56 03.03.2017)
Given the sovereignty China asserts over disputed waters and islands in the South China Sea, construction of new infrastructure on artificial islands in the region is not unusual, a senior Chinese official said, according to the Singapore-based news outlet Today Online.
According to the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based newspaper owned by Alibaba, Chinese construction in the South China Sea is "seen as a veiled attack on the United States."
In the wake of the US Navy's Third Fleet Forward tour through the South China Sea, Wang Guoqing, spokesman for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said criticisms aimed at Beijing for building defense posts in the South China Sea are "much ado about nothing," without naming a particular country, the South China Morning Post reported.
"Building amenities on our land, including those for defense, is absolutely normal," the official said, noting that the "sovereign right" belonging to China is "recognized by international law."
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during his confirmation hearing, stated that American foreign policy has been inadequate in the South China Sea, allowing the Chinese to "keep pushing the envelope" with the placement of "military assets" on regional islets. He declared Chinese construction of defense infrastructure "illegal," prompting a backlash from Beijing threatening a "military clash" if the US blocks Chinese access to islands in the South China Sea.
"As the world's largest trader and the country with the most coastline along the South China Sea, we care about the safety and freedom of navigation more than any other country," Wang said, reiterating that China's military assets are solely for basic and necessary defense purposes. The spokesman noted that China has already "established a cooperative mechanism with many countries on safety [in the South China Sea,]" according the the Today Online report.
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