Amid the Philippine government’s opposition to China’s construction and operation of lighthouses in two South China Sea reefs, which according to Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose, “are obviously intended to change the actual conditions on the ground and aimed at bolstering Beijing’s territorial claim in the South China Sea,” a high-ranking Chinese military official has insisted that their actions help provide better public services to the world.
Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission Fan Changlong also said China “will never recklessly resort to the use of force” even on issues regarding sovereignty.
Newly built lighthouses on the disputed reefs, where China has garrisons, were officially put to use. Fan said such projects “will not affect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.”
Four Asean member nations — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — have overlapping claims in the Spratlys. Taiwan also claims the Spratlys.
Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, for his part, said China will continue building other facilities with civilian purposes and in the international interest.
“Countries alongside the South China Sea and vessels sailing through the waters will receive better service,” he stressed.
As for territorial issues, Fan said China will continue to resolve disputes and differences with directly related parties through friendly consultations.
China “has done its utmost effort to avoid unexpected conflicts,” he added.
Malaysian Defense chief Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Zulkifeli bin Mohd Zin warned that “we must never allow any military conflict in the region … because it will bring other players into the fray.”
He said in 2014, around 80,000 ships went through the Strait of Malacca, a critical passage, and that corporate activities in the region have amounted to $7 trillion.
Regional stakeholders should “keep the door of talk open” because “cooperation results in a win-win outcome,” he said.
But Jose, in a statement, yesterday “We will not accept these unilateral actions as a fait accompli.”
Xinhua news agency earlier reported that the Ministry of Transport held a completion ceremony for the 50-meter-high lighthouses on Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef on the Spratly Islands.
Caulteron Reef and Johnson Reef are on the Philippine side of the Spratlys, in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), and are claimed by Manila.
Filipinos call the two reefs Calderon Reef and Mabini Reef.
China has extensively reclaimed seven islets and atolls in the Spratlys over the last two years. The runways and other facilities China is building on them have alarmed the United States and its partners in the region, who say they could be used for military purposes.
Washington, an ally of the Philippines, has repeatedly stated it does not recognize any Chinese claim of territorial waters around the reclamations built on previously submerged reefs.