China has for some years intensified its land reclamation, facility construction and defence installation in the South China Sea. Its contentious activities in the hotly disputed waters have unnerved rival claimant states and other countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia.
Yet, each time its island-building and militarization in the strategic seaway have been raised Beijing vehemently denied or downgraded the contentions.
For instance, in March this year, a spokesman for China’s defence ministry categorically stated there was “no such thing” as man-made islands in the South China Sea and denied the country’s military build-up in the area, saying any work was mainly for civilian purposes.
In the same month, during a visit to Australia Li Keqiang, China’s premier, also dismissed Beijing’s militarization of the islands, adding “if there is a certain amount of defence equipment or facilities it is for maintaining the freedom of navigation” for all.