China Announces Halt to Reclamation
China announced on Wednesday that it has ceased its reclamation projects in the South China Sea.
The announcement comes after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) expressed concern regarding Chinese reef restoration and construction of military posts in disputed regions, and it was made on the sidelines of the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting held this week in Malaysia.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei each claim sovereignty over the contested areas. China and ASEAN agreed to expedite Code of Conduct negotiations for the South China Sea.
In a joint press conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Thai Foreign Minister General Tanasak Patimapragorn stated that non-regional countries should refrain from actions that may escalate discord in the South China Sea. The Chinese recently expressed dissatisfaction with the U.S., whom it said was “militarizing the region.”
Wang told reporters that China and ASEAN countries shared a desire to resolve issues through dialogue.
However, China’s statements have not quelled the Philippine’s unease. Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose contends that Beijing has only halted its reclamation projects because it had already constructed its new islands.
Stated Jose: “At the same time, China announced they are moving on to Phase 2, which is the construction of facilities on the reclaimed features. The Philippines views these activities as destabilizing.”
China had earlier said it did not want the South China Sea dispute raised at this week's ASEAN meeting. However, some of the ministers present stated that the issue was too important to ignore.
China has almost finished building a 10,000-foot airstrip in the Spratlys. The airstrip will be long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft.