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China Denies Turning Artificial Islands to Military Bases
International

China Denies Turning Artificial Islands to Military Bases

US President Barack Obama expressed concerns about Chinese militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea to China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday, but Xi denied any plan to establish military strongholds there.
Obama said that in their summit talks they had a “candid” discussion on Asia-Pacific disputes, focusing on growing tensions in the South China Sea where China has competing territorial claims with several Southeast Asian countries, Reuters reports.
“I conveyed to President Xi our significant concerns over land reclamation, construction and the militarization of disputed areas, which makes it harder for countries in the region to resolve disagreements peacefully,” Obama said.
He spoke with Xi at his side during a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden. The Chinese leader is on his first state visit to the United States.
China has said repeatedly that the artificial islands it has built up on disputed reefs would be used for military defense and analysts say satellite pictures show it has completed one military length runway and appears to be working on two more.
Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US forces in the Pacific, told the Aspen Security Forum in July that China was building hangers on one of the reefs that appeared to be for tactical fighter aircraft.
Xi, however, denied that militarization was taking place.
“Relevant construction activity that China is undertaking in the Nansha Islands does not target or impact any country and there is no intention to militarize,” Xi said, using the Chinese name for the disputed Spratly archipelago.
“Islands in the South China Sea since ancient times are Chinese territory,” Xi said. “We have the right to uphold our own territorial sovereignty and lawful legitimate maritime rights and interests.”
Xi also reiterated that China is committed to freedom of navigation in the sea and to resolving disputes through dialogue. He said Beijing and Washington had a shared interest in this regard.

 

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