A statement released by China’s foreign ministry says that China will cease building additional islands, though it plans to complete existing land reclamation efforts.
Beijing appears to be heeding the warnings from Defense Secretary Ash Carter to cease land reclamation, although it intends to finish pre-existing work in the Spratly Islands first. When finished, China will switch from creating new land mass to building facilities on completed islands, CNN reports.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that the islands will host both military and civilian facilities. In the past, China has strenuously denied that the islands had anything to do with military installations. Instead, officials pointed to functions like maritime search and rescue and environmental conservation as the main impetus for the facilities, and emphasized that any military uses, if present at all, are secondary. Observers have noted construction of a 10,000-foot runway and radar system.