Beijing officially announced that it will be finished building islands “soon,” offering some relief amid soaring tensions in the region. The land reclamation that it is now “nearly complete” has created some 1,500 acres in the last year alone, mostly in the disputed Spratly Islands.
However, once the dredging stops, that doesn’t mean the saga is over. China will continue to reinforce and build on the islands as they exist, including for military purposes, official sources say. Reuters has the latest:
China…says the construction on the islands will help with maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, environmental protection and offer navigational assistance as well as have undefined military purposes. […]
These facilities would help improve living conditions there and also fulfill China’s international obligations on environmental monitoring, disaster relief and navigational safety, the NDRC said.
Large lighthouses for navigation are included in the building plan, along with base stations for wireless navigation equipment, weather stations to monitor for tsunamis, scientific research stations and equipment to tackle oil spills, it added.
Oil spills, eh?
Already, China’s most powerful neighbor is making it clear that the existence of the islands won’t be taken as an effective victory for China’s territorial claims. AFP reports:
Japan warned China on Wednesday that its extensive land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea does not make ownership “a done deal”, after Beijing announced it had almost finished its controversial island-building. […]
“We hold serious and significant concerns about the unilateral actions aimed at changing the status quo, which are bound to increase tension,” the Japanese government’s top spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
“With the completion of the reclamation, we must not accept the land reclamation as a done deal. We demand (China) not take unilateral actions that bring irreversible and physical changes,” he added.
Responding to the comments, Beijing countered that “it makes no sense” for Japan to press China on the issue.
China’s regional opponents are not going to take the heat off just because China finished dredging. The fight for the South China Sea is still very much on.