China’s land reclamation is creating a “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea according to a top US official, raising “serious questions” as to its intentions.
At a speech in Australia on Tuseday evening, US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris said that China had created “over four square kilometers of artificial landmass” by pumping sand on to coral reefs and adding concrete.
“When one looks at China’s pattern of provocative actions towards smaller claimant states” he continued, “it’s no surprise that the scope and pace of building man-made islands raise serious questions about Chinese intentions.”
In response to a BBC report on land reclamation in the South China Sea, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said China’s operations in the Spratly Islands fell “entirely within China’s sovereignty and are totally justifiable.”
Tensions in the South China Sea have escalated in recent years as China has become more proactive in enforcing its disputed territorial claims.
The Philippines has filed a complaint with the UN’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, but China has said it has no intention of engaging with the case.
In Vietnam last year, fierce anti-China protests broke out following China’s deployment of a billion-dollar oil rig in disputed waters off the Vietnamese coast.
By Dominic Jackson
[Images via Philippine armed forces // Radio Free Asia]