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Island defenses 'legitimate, legal'

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by December 20, 2016 General

Beijing says measures taken on the Nanshas are not ‘militarization’

Beijing said on Thursday that necessary military measures on the Nansha Islands are mainly for defense, citing a high-profile foreign military presence right “outside the front door”, an apparent reference to the United States.

The Defense Ministry’s remarks on its micro blog followed a report by a US think tank on Wednesday.

The report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, which cited recent satellite images, said China appeared to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on seven islands in the South China Sea.

The Defense Ministry said development on the Nansha Islands was mainly for civilian purposes, while necessary military measures there were mainly for defense and were “legitimate and legal”.

“For example, were someone to be threatening you with armed force outside your front door, would you not get ready with even a slingshot?” the ministry said on the micro blog.

The US military has repeatedly conducted “freedom of navigation” operations in which ships and planes have passed close to Chinese territory.

Beijing said the moves were provocations and increased the risk of a military accident.

Admiral Harry Harris, who leads the US Pacific Command, said on Wednesday that the United States will be ready to confront China “where we must”.

US president-elect Donald Trump also hinted on Twitter that he would be harsher than his predecessor with China in the South China Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing on Thursday, “If China’s building of normal facilities and deploying necessary territorial defensive facilities on its own islands is considered militarization, then what is the sailing of fleets into the South China Sea?”

He said the Nansha Islands “are China’s inherent territory”.

He said the defensive facilities on China’s territory are completely normal and have nothing to do with “militarization”.

Zuo Xiying, a researcher of international relations at Renmin University of China, said, “Given existing foreign threats against China in the South China Sea, how can China put no defensive measures in the region?

“And, for sure, the US will continue using this topic to press China,” he said.

Zuo added that it seems Beijing and Washington have different understandings of non-militarization in the South China Sea.

Alexander Neill, a senior fellow for Asia-Pacific security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, told the Associated Press that, looking forward, China’s new military deployments will likely be calibrated in response to moves taken by the US.

Chu Yi contributed to this story.

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