MOSCOW: AS China finishes the construction of a landing strip for humanitarian purposes on its artificial island in the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the US is fiercely accusing the country of militarization of the area.
A 3,000-foot Chinese airstrip on one of seven man-crafted islands in the Spratly Islands that is in the final stage of construction may be used in the future for conducting military operations, authors of a recent Pentagon report claimed.
As soon as the runway is built, China will use it for airplanes, which are now based on the country’s aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, the report said.
So far, there is only one Chinese carrier based in the South China Sea and it is not “fully operational,” according to First Post. The ship is an upgraded version of one of the USSR-era vessels that China bought from Ukraine. But American experts believe that by the end of 2020, a lot more carriers for the South China Sea will be constructed by the Chinese military.
US Navy amphibious assault vehicles with Philippine and US troops on board maneuver in the waters during a combined exercise in the South China Sea.
Although the construction of various facilities, including the runway, on artificial islands is “within the scope of China’s sovereignty,” according to Chinese officials, Americans labeled it as “further reclamation of territories.” Moreover, they accused China of a military build-up.
Zhu Haiquan, the Chinese embassy spokesperson in Washington, said in the response to the Pentagon report that the facilities on the islands will be essential for the “public good.” For instance, he said, international rescuers would be able to use them for conducting disaster relief operations and for researching purposes.
“China stands ready to open these facilities to other countries upon completion,” Zhu stated. “We hope the US side will view this in an objective and balanced way and respect regional countries’ efforts to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea.”
Important trade routes lie within the South China Sea, making revenues worth $5 trillion annually. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei along with China currently claim parts of the sea.