The announcement comes after US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter called for a halt to land reclamation during his meeting with Gen Fan Changlong at  Pentagon

Beijing : Days after the US demanded a halt to island building activities by China in the disputed South China Sea, Beijing in a surprise move said it will “very soon” complete land reclamation in some of the “stationed islands and reefs”.

 “The land reclamation project of China’s construction on some stationed islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands, as planned, will be completed very soon,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said here. The Spratly islands which China calls the Nansha islands in the South China Sea (SCS), are also claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam.

“Apart from satisfying the need of necessary military defence, the main purpose of China’s construction activities is to meet various civilian demands and better perform China’s international obligations and responsibilities,” Kang said.

The obligations and responsibilities highlighted by him included maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine scientific research, meteorological observation, ecological environment conservation, navigation safety as well as fishery production service.

After the land reclamation, China will start the building of facilities to meet relevant functional requirements, Lu said in a statement earlier.

He justified the construction saying that the building activities are “lawful, reasonable and justified” as the islands and reefs are within China’s sovereignty.

The announcement comes after US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter called for a halt to land reclamation in the SCS during his June 12 meeting at the Pentagon with Gen Fan Changlong, deputy head of China’s Central Military Commission.

Reiterating US concerns about tensions in the SCS, Carter called on China and all rival claimants to halt land reclamation and militarisation of the disputed territory and to pursue a peaceful resolution in accordance with international law, a Pentagon statement said.

China’s claim of sovereignty over almost all of SCS is hotly contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The US, India and other countries have been stating that the disputes should not hinder the freedom of navigation in SCS which is a busy international shipping trade route.

K J M Varma      

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