A Chinese expert said that China’s islands in the South China Sea would be “expanded” later through more dredging and insisted that the facilities on its artificial islands were focused on civilian purposes.
“Most of the construction on islands in the South China Sea was completed in 2015 and the pace then slowed. Civilian facility construction is the major focus of the South China Sea islands building and the portion of defense deployment is relatively small,” Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, was quoted in a report by Chinese publication Global Times on Monday.
Chen’s comments came after the Inquirer published aerial photographs of China’s militarization of its seven artificial islands in the South China Sea.
“The size of some South China Sea islands will be further expanded in future through more dredging in the South China Sea region,” the Global Times quoted Chen as saying.
The expert reportedly observed that there was “domestic pressure” on President Rodrigo Duterte to take a “tough stance” on China and South China Sea issue.
The Philippine government has drawn flak for its supposed defeatist stance on China’s militarization in the strategic waterway and had been prodded to take a tougher stance on the issue.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque downplayed the reported militarization stating, “What do you want us to do? All that we could do is extract a promise from China not to reclaim new artificial islands.”
Zhuang Guotu, head of Xiamen University’s Southeast Asian Studies Center, said: “China has the right to build whatever it needs within its territory.”
He told Global Times in the same report that foreign media liked to hype China’s activities in the South China Sea “as they try to make excuses to prevent China’s activities in this region.”
He also said that the military assets in the waterway were “not for military expansion” but for defense purposes.
Both the experts agreed that the US was “the biggest threat to stability in the South China Sea.”
“The US, Australia, Japan and other allies will constantly provoke China over this issue and that will incite other neighboring South China Sea countries to do the same,” Zhuang said.