China denies building military bases in South China Sea as President Xi Jinping commits to freedom of navigation

By @diplomatist10 on
South China Sea
Policemen stand guard behind placards during a rally by members of Movement and Alliance to Resist China's Aggression, regarding the disputed islands in the South China Sea, in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati, Metro Manila August 31, 2015. The Philippines has sought help from the United States to monitor "real-time" developments in the South China Sea, providing surveillance and reconnaissance, a military spokesman said on Thursday, amid China's rapid expansion in the area. Reuters/Ezra Acayan

China has denied the charge of building military bases on the islands of the South China Sea and reiterated its commitment to allay concerns through dialogue. China’s reaction came through President Xi Jinging during his recent visit to the United States, even as new reports are claiming that China has already completed the work of a huge runway in one of the South China Sea islands.

The Chinese leader, on his first state visit to the United States, denied any militarisation was taking place on the islands.  This statement comes amidst reports that the South China Sea will be one of the core issues at the summit level bilateral talks. Reports also pointed out that U.S was highly exercised over the militarisation and artificial island-building spree by China in the region, which Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and other South East Asian countries have also taken issue with.   

President Obama in his remarks, did refer to some "candid" discussions on the Asia-Pacific disputes, reported Reuters. However, in a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden, no hard references were made to the South China Sea issue. Instead, the focus was on cooperation in climate change mitigation and cyber security.  

“Relevant construction activity that China is undertaking in the Nansha Islands does not target or impact any country and there is no intention to militarise,” Mr Xi said, using the Chinese name for the disputed Spratly island.

“Islands in the South China Sea since ancient times are Chinese territory,” the Chinese president said, adding that China has the right to uphold its own territorial sovereignty and lawful legitimate maritime rights and interests.

Mr Xi also reiterated that China is committed to freedom of navigation in the sea and is keen on resolving all disputes through dialogue. He claimed that both Beijing and Washington had a “shared interest” in this regard.

Runway

Meanwhile, fresh reports are rolling in claiming that China has completed work on a 10,000 foot runway on a reclaimed island in the South China Sea. Based on proof from satellite photos, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that the completed runway on Fiery Cross Reef may go operational in the near future and accelerate additional construction on the reclaimed island.

The island on the Spratly chain is somewhat in the middle of the South China Sea, 400 miles off Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. It is one of the key components of the China’s South China sea strategy, the report said.

“Fiery Cross Reef is the most extensive new landmass built by China in Spratly Islands and is believed to be the future hub for its operations in the southern reaches of the South China Sea,” the report stated. In addition to the runway, the Fiery Cross installation also appears to be having deep water port to serve as the logistics hub for warships.

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