Beijing will start construction this year on a South China Sea islet within the Philippines’ claimed exclusive economic zone as it seeks to project its power in the disputed waters, Hong Kong media reported Monday.
China will establish an outpost on Scarborough Shoal, 230 kilometres (143 miles) off the Philippine coast, the South China Morning Post newspaper cited an unnamed source close to the People’s Liberation Army as saying.
Beijing claims nearly all the strategically vital sea, despite competing claims from several Southeast Asian neighbors, and in recent months it has developed contested reefs into artificial islands, some topped with airstrips.
Manila claims Scarborough Shoal but says China took effective control of it in 2012, stationing patrol vessels in the area and shooing away Filipino fishermen, after a two-month stand-off with the Philippine Navy.
The SCMP cited the source as saying construction at the outpost would allow Beijing to “further perfect” its air coverage across the South China Sea, suggesting it plans to build an airstrip.
China’s expansion ‘worrisome’
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, speaking ahead of a visit to Beijing, said on Monday China was making the world “worried” with its military build-up and maritime expansion in the East and South China Seas, Reuters reports.
“Candidly speaking, a rapid and opaque increase in (China’s) military spending and unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas under the aim of building a strong maritime state are having not only people in Japan, but countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the international community worried greatly,” Kishida said in a speech to business leaders.
Full article: China to build on disputed Scarborough Shoal this year: Report (Asia Times)