BEIJING—China said it is shifting work on disputed South China Sea islets from the dredging of land to the construction of military and other facilities as it pushes forward with a program that has aggravated tensions with the U.S. and neighbors.
In a statement on its website Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry said land reclamation on some islands and reefs in the Spratlys chain “will be completed in the upcoming days” as planned. Beijing will then proceed to build facilities on those features that will serve military and civilian purposes, the statement said.
Analysts say the imminent end to China’s island-building work could signal a willingness to seek compromise with Washington and rival claimants in the South China Sea, even as it demonstrates Beijing’s ability to unilaterally dictate terms in the long-standing dispute.
“This is a step toward halting land reclamation, which the U.S. has demanded, and at the same time, China can tell its people that it has accomplished what it wanted to do,” said Huang Jing, an expert on Chinese foreign policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.