Hong Kong based South China Morning Post quoted Chinese military sources as saying that China will start reclamation at the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea later this year and may add an airstrip to extend its air force’s reach.
The PLA Navy said Beijing would ramp up work to establish a new outpost 230km off the coast of the Philippines as the US and Manila drew their militaries closer together, the report said.
“I haven’t heard about what you mentioned”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told a media briefing here today when asked about a report that it will start reclamation at the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea later this year and may add an airstrip to extend its air force’s reach over the contested waters.
She however said islands are inherent territory China.
“China will take necessary action to uphold sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests”, she said.
Beijing’s action followed as China apprehend that the tribunal of the UN Convention on Law of Seas, (UNCLOS) hearing the petition of the Philippines will go against it, the Post said.
Manila wants the court to declare that Beijing’s claims must comply with the UNCLOS and the decision could come next month or in June.
China will take will take action to carry out land reclamation within this year,” the Post reported.
“China should regain the initiative to do so because Washington is trying to contain Beijing by establishing a permanent military presence in the region,” the report said.
The US and the Philippines began joint patrols in the South China Sea in March, US defence chief Ash Carter said during his latest visit to the region.
US forces will also have access to at least eight military bases in the Philippines, with two air bases in Pampanga, 330 km from Scarborough Shoal.
The atoll is a potential flashpoint in the South China Sea and is claimed by Beijing, Manila and Taipei. Chinese coastguard ships took control of the area after a tense stand-off with Philippine vessels in 2012.
With a new outpost in the shoal, Beijing could “further perfect” its air coverage across the South China Sea, the Post report said.
The PLA can already land planes at Woody Island, and two additional airstrips are believed to be under construction at Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs.