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Monday, November 23, 2015, 10:15

Reclamation not militarization: China

By Xinhua

KUALA LUMPUR - China's construction on its own islands and reefs in the South China Sea is aimed at improving the living conditions of those living there and better fulfilling its international duties, a senior Chinese diplomat said here Sunday.

That is something China is obligated to do and should not be misinterpreted as an attempt to militarize the body of water vital to global trade, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said at a press briefing on the sidelines of a series of regional leaders' meetings.

The briefing came hours after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who is here for the summits, raised a five-pronged proposal to uphold and promote peace and stability in the South China Sea and urged outside countries to refrain from taking actions that may cause tension in the region.

China's construction of facilities, mainly civilian ones, on seven of its islands and reefs in the South China Sea is something China has to do, Liu stressed.

It is aimed at improving the living and work conditions of personnel on those islands and providing high-quality public services that will also benefit surrounding countries, he explained, adding that some construction projects will be completed within years.

Meanwhile, Liu pointed out that a total of 42 of China's islands and reefs in the region are being illegally occupied by three of its neighboring countries.

"To build necessary military defense facilities on islands far away from our mainland is required by the need both of national defense and of safeguarding our islands and reefs," Liu said. "They should not be mistaken for actions to militarize the South China Sea."

In addition, he noted that some major countries outside the region "are exercising their so-called freedom of navigation by sending airplanes and warships while strengthening military cooperation with countries in the region."

"Isn't that a trend of militarization?" he said. "We should stay on high alert against it."

"Don't make troubles on purpose," he warned.

The recent intrusion of a US warship into waters near China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea, over which Beijing has voiced "strong discontent," was a "political provocation," Liu said.

He stressed that when exercising the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, countries concerned need to show respect for the sovereignty and security of the countries along the coast.

The freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been obstructed, Liu stressed, noting that over the past few decades there has not been a single case of commercial ships running into obstruction there.

For military vessels and ships for military purposes, however, countries do have conflicting views regarding their passage, especially in territorial waters, the vice foreign minister pointed out.

"There are no clear provisions in international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.

US naval fleets have been sailing across the South China Sea for many years and not a single time have they encountered any problem in doing so, Liu told the briefing.

Considering the existence of pirates and crimes in the sea, it is a shared task for China, ASEAN and other concerned countries to safeguard maritime security as well as the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, Liu added.

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