China renews islands claim as US think-tank warns on airstrip


Beijing will never give up its claims to South China Sea islands, its foreign minister insisted Wednesday ahead of a state visit to the US by President Xi Jinping, after a Washington think-tank said it may be building its third airstrip in the area.

China claims almost the whole of the sea and over the past year has asserted its stance by rapidly converting tiny reefs into artificial islands, with facilities for military use.

Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all have rival claims to the waters, which incorporate strategically crucial shipping lanes and could harbour oil and gas deposits.

The Pentagon has warned that Beijing’s activities are changing the regional status quo, and has weighed sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles — the normal territorial zone around natural land — of the new artificial islands.

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