Amid growing concerns among the US, India, and China’s neighboring countries like Vietnam and the Philippines over the island China is building in the South China Sea, Beijing has said that the US and other countries would be welcome to use facilities on islands for civilian activities “when the conditions are right”.
“We welcome international organizations, the United States and relevant countries to use these facilities in the future when the conditions are right, to have co-operation on humanitarian search and rescue and disaster relief,” said China’s Navy Chief Wu Shengli.
The Navy Chief said that the countries can also use the island for various other purposes like whether forecasting and search and rescue operation. China assured Washington that the island building, or once it is built, wouldn’t affect navigation or overflying rights, and that it is not building for pursuing military activities in the regional waters.
China has built several facilities on the island including living quarters, harbors, one island, Fiery Cross and a newly built airstrip. The latest development extends China’s reach into the Western Pacific.
China has underlined that many of its neighbors, including Vietnam, Taiwan and Philippines have built islands and reefs in the territory claimed by Beijing.
Beijing has accused Manila and Hanoi of illegal construction in South China Sea. “For a long time, the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries have been carrying out reclamations on the Chinese islands they are illegally occupying in the Nansha Islands, building airports and other fixed infrastructure, even deploying missiles and other military equipment,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, during his daily briefing. Mr. Hong was alluding to Spratly islands, called by China as Nansha islands. Mr. Hong added that the Philippines is building an airport and expanding a wharf on Thitu Island.
Beijing issued the statement after Mr Wu and US chief of naval operation Jonathan Greenart had a telephonic conversation in which the latter said that China needed to explain to its neighbours the aim of building the island. He said he hoped other countries could also use the facilities for joint humanitarian operations.
In response, Mr Wu said that China was building the project to improve the availability of public services utilities, such as weather forecasting, maritime rescue and search, maintain security and fulfilling international obligations.
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