The following is based on translations from reports in Chinese media:
In the face of the Pentagon’s anticipated next move to send warships and warplanes to patrol the areas of the South China Sea that China claims as its territorial waters, China has not stopped its construction of artificial islands there but instead held the groundbreaking ceremonies of two lighthouses on artificial islands.
A few days ago, the US flew a spy plane over artificial islands built by China in waters claimed by China. China claimed to have forced the planes to leave with a series of radio messages, calling the flight a “provocation.”
According to CCTV, the two lighthouses are 50 metres high and each is installed with a lantern 4.5 meters in diameter. Their designed range is 22 nautical miles.
In early August, 2014, China’s state-run China News Service said Chinese authorities surveyed sites for lighthouses on five islands, known in English as North Reef, Antelope Reef, Drummond Island, South Sand and Pyramid Rock.
China conduct the groundbreaking ceremonies of two lighthouses on its artificial islands on the same day on purpose and the groundbreaking ceremonies were shown on China’s official TV media CCTV’s primetime news as an open challenge to the US military move.
China says it message is very clear: It will go on with its large scale construction in the South China Sea, totally disregarding US protests and military moves.
At the regular press conference of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 26, the spokeswoman Hua Chunying gave the following reply to a reporter’s question “China today held a groundbreaking ceremony for a lighthouse on Huayang Jiao (also known as Cuateron Reef) of the Nansha Islands (also known as Spratly Islands). What is the purpose for building the lighthouse?”:
China has made it clear on multiple occasions that the construction on maritime features of the Nansha Islands is to better fulfil China’s international responsibilities and obligations in maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine science and research, meteorological observation, protection of the ecological environment, safety of navigation, fishery production and services, and other matters.
The South China Sea is a vital passage for maritime transport and one of the important fishing grounds in the world. A large number of vessels pass through this area, which is under complicated conditions and vulnerable to marine accidents. China’s construction of lighthouses on Huayang Jiao and Chigua Jiao (Johnson South Reef) of the Nansha Islands is to implement China’s international obligations and responsibilities, and provide passing vessels with efficient guidance and aiding services which will substantially improve navigation safety in the South China Sea.
Going forward, the Chinese side will continue to build other civilian facilities on relevant maritime features of the Nansha Islands and offer better services to vessels from littoral countries of the South China Sea and those sailing through this area.
China says that since the construction of artificial islands and lighthouses on them are to facilitate the US in exercising its right of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, US military provocation is entirely aimed at containing China. Hua maintains that freedom of navigation is an excuse the US uses to contain China.
Source: CCTV “China begins construction of two large lighthouses in the South China Sea” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
Source: Website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference on May 26, 2015”
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