China defends building works in disputed sea

Reuters

Posted at Apr 27 2015 07:16 PM | Updated as of Apr 28 2015 03:16 AM

KUALA LUMPUR - China defended building works in disputed South China Sea on Monday (April 27) after the Philippines called on its Southeast Asian neighbors to unite in urging China to halt reclamation of land in the disputed waters.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) host Malaysia is set to give in to pressure from some neighbors and address the sensitive issue of land reclamations in the South China Sea with a draft summit statement saying such action may undermine peace, security and stability.

The statement to be issued after the closing ceremony of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur on Monday will raise the "serious concerns" of some leaders over the land reclamations, according to the draft statement seen by Reuters.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, defended China's construction works in the disputed areas.

"China's building on islands in the South China Sea is completely within the scope of China's sovereignty; it is reasonable, fair and lawful. It does not affect any other country. Criticism by certain countries of china is totally unreasonable," Hong told journalists at a regular press briefing.

He also hit out at countries who tried to hold the China-ASEAN relationship "hostage" through raising such issues at the meeting.

"China resolutely opposes individual countries making insinuations about china for their own selfish interests and taking hostage the China ASEAN relationship. China is a resolute force for maintaining regional peace, we will do our best to use a dual-track approach to deal with and solve the South China Sea issue. We hope the countries in question can meet China half-way and work together to maintain regional peace and stability in the South China Sea," he said.

The dual-track approach favored by China refers to dealing with territorial issues either bi-laterally or as a group through ASEAN. He also added that the construction works were civilian and would benefit all.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

While many of the claimants have built facilities like airstrips on some of the islets and shoals they occupy, China's efforts have been by far the most extensive and dramatic.

Disputes over how to address the increasingly assertive role of China - an ally of several ASEAN states - in the strategic waters of the South China Sea has placed the issue squarely as Southeast Asia's biggest potential military flashpoint.