There is “no such thing” as man-made islands in the South China Sea, China’s Defence Ministry has said, claiming that any building work was for civilian purposes only.
China, which lays claim to most of the disputed waters, has carried out land reclamation and construction on several islands in the Spratly archipelago, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines.
The confirmed building work includes airports, harbours and other facilities, often constructed on man-made reefs.
Ministry spokesman Wu Qian was apparently drawing a distinction between these reefs and man-made islands, adding that, in whichever case, China could do as it pleased as the Spratlys were “inherent Chinese territory”.
“There is no such thing as man-made islands,” Wu told a regular monthly news briefing. “Most of the building is for civilian purposes, including necessary defensive facilities.”
He also said that although the region was generally stable, “some countries outside the region” wanted to “hype things up and create tensions” — a clear criticism of US policy towards the disputed waters.
When pressed to clarify his comment that were no man-made islands, Wu declined to elaborate.
As we reported on Monday, a US think tank said China had completed military infrastructure on its man-made islands and can now deploy combat planes and other military hardware there.
China has repeatedly denied charges it is militarising the resource-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.