In a public release, Philippines military authorities said Tuesday that China should “refrain from selfish acts” referring to the latter’s plans to speed up construction of artificial islands on the coral islands, or atolls, in West Philippine Sea (the South China Sea).
The Philippines also urged China to abide by the international laws all states comply with including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“We reiterate that their activities if not stopped only draws the world closer to further uncertainties and untoward incidents with irreparable consequences,”
said Philippines Defense spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez.
He added that China’s misconduct would result in “irreparable consequences.”
According to a Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement issued Tuesday, the Red Dragon would complete its “land reclamation project” in the Nansha Islands, also known as the Spratlys, “in the upcoming days.”
But the Chinese declined to provide more details about which of the reefs would be affected by the project or an exact time frame.
China has been working on artificially expanding its territory for months now. According to the U.S. data, China’s reclamation project currently covers nearly 2,000 acres. China is interested in a particularly resource-rich region in the South China Sea, but Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines are interested in it as well.
The U.S. does not have an official stance on the claims but it urged China to respect freedom of navigation. China argues that the recent activity is “lawful, reasonable and justified” since it falls within its sovereignty, doesn’t target another country, and doesn’t hinder free navigation. Additionally, there is no threat to marine ecological systems, Chinese authorities said.
On the contrary, China says that the land reclamation project would help marine scientific research, fisheries, navigation safety, conservation and rescue activities.
But the next step after the artificial islands are completed is to construct facilities “to meet the relevant functions requirements.” And all these in spite of desperate calls from the U.S., Australia, the G7 group and, most recent, the Philippines.
Neighbors are also concerned that China’s operations of establishing military bases would disrupt the frail military balance in the region.
So far, China did not retaliate in any manner, nor did it stop the sand dredging activities. Satellite and military imagery show Chinese vessels dredging sand to the outer parts of South China Sea’s atolls and filling their inside holes afterward.
China’s offshore reclamation project is unprecedented due to its magnitude of more than 1,900 acres of reef turned into dry land over night.
Image Source: Bloomberg