China defends land reclamation on disputed islands

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CHINA – Beijing reaffirmed its right to build on disputed islands in the South China Sea on Thursday after satellite imagery emerged of construction operations turning tropical reefs into concrete artificial islands.

A series of satellite images posted on the website of the Center for Strategic and International Studies show a flotilla of Chinese vessels dredging sand onto Mischief Reef and the resulting land spreading in size.

Before-and-after images of other outcrops in the Spratly Islands record runways appearing from jungle, smooth-sided solid masses where coral once lay, and man-made harbours replacing natural reefs.

Analysts say the pictures show how China is attempting to create facts in the water to bolster its sovereignty claims.

Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea, including areas close to the coasts of other littoral states, using a nine-segment line based on one that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.

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