#AceNewsServices – MANILA – May 14 – (Reuters) – The Philippines accused China on Wednesday of reclaiming land on a reef in disputed islands in the South China Sea, apparently to build an airstrip, only a day after Washington described Beijing’s actions in the region as “provocative”.
If confirmed, the airstrip would be the first built by China on any of the eight reefs and islands it occupies in the Spratly Islands and would mark a significant escalation in tensions involving several nations in the area.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, an area rich in energy deposits and an important passageway traversed each year by $5 trillion worth of ship-borne goods.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the area.
Philippine Foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose told Reuters that China had moved earth and materials to Johnson South Reef, known by the Chinese as Chigua, in recent weeks. He said China was reclaiming land in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an informal code of conduct for the region.
“They’re about to build an airstrip,” Jose said.
Tensions in the South China Sea were already high after China moved a large oil rig into an area also claimed by Vietnam. Beijing and Hanoi each accused the other of ramming its ships near the disputed Paracel Islands.
The Paracel Islands, known as Xisha Islands in Chinese and as Hoàng Sa Archipelago inVietnamese, is a group of islands in the South China Sea whose sovereignty is claimed by the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The islands are currently controlled by China, which captured them from South Vietnam in January 1974.
China established the city of Sansha, under Hainan Province in July 2012, to administer the islands.
The archipelago is approximately equidistant from the coastlines of Vietnam and China: 180 nautical miles (330 km; 210 mi) south-east of Hainan Island, and about one-third of the way between Central Vietnam to the northern Philippines.
Turtles live on the islands, and sea-birds have left nests and guano deposits, but there are no permanent human residents except military personnel and fishermen.
Divided into two main groups, the Paracel Islands comprise the Amphitrite group in the north-east and the Crescent group in the south-west located about 70 km (43 mi) from one another.
Here is the answer to the reason for the dispute in the paragraph below:
Subject to a hot and humid climate with abundant rainfall and frequent typhoons, the archipelago is surrounded by productive fishing grounds along with potential oil and gas reserves.
- Factories torched in anti-China protest in Vietnam(kansascity.com)
- Philippines says China appears to be building airstrip on disputed reef(news.yahoo.com)
- China ‘building airstrip’ on disputed reef(aljazeera.com)