China needs to build defensive structures on islands in the South China Sea to display its claim to sovereignty over virtually the entire crucial waterway, a leading Chinese general said Thursday.
However, the vice president of China’s Academy of Military Sciences, Lt. Gen. He Lei, declined to comment on aircraft deployments on artificial islands Chinese has built in the area, saying those were entirely China’s domestic affair.
“I don’t think any country would want to make irresponsible comments about such matters,” He said in a rare meeting with Chinese and foreign journalists on the sidelines of the annual session of China’s ceremonial legislature, of which he is a member.
Earlier Thursday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi appeared to blame the U.S. and its allies for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, which is claimed in all or in part by China and five other governments. He said China had been working with other claimants and its Southeast Asian neighbors on completing a code of conduct to prevent frictions in the waterway that has rich fishing grounds, vital sea routes and a potential wealth of undersea natural resources.