Beijing close to finishing some reclamation on Spratlys

Satellite images taken on Feb 14 (far left) and April 17 show the rapidly built island at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. Military facilities are under construction, including a 3,000m runway and airborne early warning radars, according to a
Satellite images taken on Feb 14 (far left) and April 17 show the rapidly built island at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. Military facilities are under construction, including a 3,000m runway and airborne early warning radars, according to a US commander.PHOTOS: VICTOR ROBERT LEE AND DIGITALGLOBE

BEIJING - China will soon complete some of its land reclamation on the Spratly islands in the disputed South China Sea, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday, indicating that Beijing is close to setting up new outposts in the maritime heart of South-east Asia.

The Foreign Ministry did not identify which of the seven reefs undergoing reclamation would be finished soon.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said its statement was already "quite detailed".

China stepped up its creation of artificial islands last year, a move that has alarmed several countries in Asia and drawn growing criticism from Washington.

There have been recent tensions between the Chinese navy and the United States military around the Spratlys.

"Based on our understanding from the relevant authorities, in accordance with the set work plan, the land reclamation project for China's construction on some islands and reefs on the Nansha islands will be completed soon," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, using the Chinese name for the Spratlys.

It gave no timeframe.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion (S$6.7 trillion) in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

Philippine Defence Ministry spokesman Peter Paul Galvez urged China to refrain from what he called selfish acts.

"We reiterate that their ac-tivities, if not stopped, only draws the world closer to further uncertainties and untoward incidents with irreparable consequences," Mr Galvez told reporters in Manila.

US officials have said the pace and scale of China's reclamation work far outstripped that of other claimants.

One official has said that before January last year, China had reclaimed only about 5ha, but this had soared to 800ha, expanding the acreage on outposts it occupies by over 400 times.

Recent satellite images show a hive of building and other work on the new islands.

Military facilities, for example, are under construction on Fiery Cross Reef, including a 3,000m runway and airborne early warning radars, which could be operational by the year end, according to one US commander.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2015, with the headline 'Beijing close to finishing some reclamation on Spratlys'. Print Edition | Subscribe