Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang holds a press briefing. FMPRC

China says building facilities in South China Sea is 'normal'
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - December 16, 2016 - 5:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — Following reports that it has been installing weapon systems on seven islands in the South China Sea, Beijing stressed that it is within its sovereignty to build facilities in the area.

Ignoring the words of the arbitral tribunal's ruling favoring the Philippines' claims, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang repeated his earlier statements that the Spratly (Kalayaan) Islands in the disputed South China Sea are China's inherent territories.

"It's completely normal for us to build facilities and deploy necessary defense equipment there, a right of a sovereign state recognized by international law," Geng said at a press briefing.

Geng, however, clarified that he is not aware of the specific situation in the Spratly Islands as reported by a Washington-based think tank.

The CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative recently reported that China appears to have installed point-defense capabilities at seven of the Manila-claimed islands in the Spratly Islands.

READ: Satellite photos show China weapons in South China Sea

The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied that Beijing is not militarizing the islands despite such reports.

"China is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea with relevant ASEAN countries," Geng said.

"Besides, if China's building of normal facilities and deploying of necessary defense equipment on its own islands is counted as militarization, then how do you categorize driving fleets to the South China Sea," the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson added.

He claimed that the situation in the disputed South China Sea has been stabilized and is improving.

Seven reefs in the Spratly Islands - Fiery Cross (Kagitingan), Mischief (Panganiban), Subi (Zamora), Gaven (Burgos), Hughes, Johnson (Mabini) and Cuarteron (Calderon) Reefs - have been installed with anti-aircraft guns and probable close-in weapons systems.

The AMTI warned that the facilities would serve as last line defenses against cruise missiles launched by the United States.

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