U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Shangri-La Dialogue on May 30 that China has gone much further and faster in the South China Sea land reclamation operations, more than all other claimants combined and more than in the entire history of the region.
He criticized China’s actions in the South China Sea as out of step with international norms and rules, saying that the U.S. is deeply concerned about the prospect of further militarization of islands and reefs in the South China Sea as well as the potential for these activities to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict.
“The United States is deeply concerned about the pace and scope of land reclamation in the South China Sea, the prospect of further militarization, as well as the potential for these activities…to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states,” he said.
Carter added that turning an underwater rock into an airfield does not afford the rights of sovereignty, calling for an immediate stop of land reclamation and further militarization of islands and reefs by all claimants.
Commenting this, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying, said: “China’s construction work on some garrisoned islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands is totally within China’s sovereignty. It is lawful, reasonable and justified, not affecting or targeting any other countries.”
“Once finished, the construction work will equip the islands and reefs with diversified and integrated functions which are mainly for civilian uses, apart from satisfying necessary military defense needs. China is committed to a path of peaceful development, a defense policy that is defensive in nature and a foreign policy of building friendship and partnership with her neighbors.”
Chunying added that China is conducting construction activities at a pace and with a scale befitting her international responsibilities and obligations in the fields such as maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, meteorological observation, ecological conservation, navigation safety and fishery services in the South China Sea.
These activities are designed to serve practical needs and provide better services to the ships of China, her neighbors and other countries passing through the South China Sea, concluded Chunying.