China defends ‘peaceful construction’ of defense facilities on Fiery Cross
MANILA, Philippines — Despite earlier making a promise not to militarize the features in the South China Sea, Beijing has defended its recent conduct in the disputed region.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the construction of defense facilities — a rare admission of militarization — in their “own territory” is not directed at any country.
“China’s peaceful construction on its own territory aims to make greater contributions to regional peace, navigation safety, disaster prevention and relief, maritime search and rescue and marine scientific research,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
“Of course, China also needs to build necessary defense facilities,” he also said.
Lu made the comment in response to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that the Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest with China over the buildup of the Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef in the Spratly Islands.
This follows recent aerial shots shown by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television showing that the Fiery Cross Reef has been transformed into a fortified airbase with a hospital and military installations.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, however, stressed that Beijing and Manila maintain “unimpeded dialogue and communication on maritime-related issues.”
“The Chinese side stands ready to continue stepping up communication with the Philippine side so as to eliminate misunderstanding and enhance mutual trust,” Lu said.
Lyle Morris, senior policy analyst at Rand Corporation, said that Beijing’s violation of its promise not to militarize the South China Sea bares their intentions in the region.
“China will do what it wants in the [South China Sea] until there is unified response,” Morris said on Twitter.
This quote from MOFA spokesman, admitting that China has violated its promise not to militarize its features in the SCS, lays bare the fraud of Chinese intentions in the region. China will do what it wants in the SCS until there is unified response. Remember this quote. pic.twitter.com/d0uMzLO9re
— Lyle Morris (@LyleJMorris) January 9, 2018
Earlier this week, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the Philippines continues to rely on China’s “good faith” commitment that they will not embark on new reclamation activities in the disputed waters.
Roque said that the information that Fiery Cross Reef has been transformed into a Chinese airbase was “not new.”
“From the very beginning China, we knew, was militarizing the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases,” Roque said.