SINGAPORE — A Chinese general snapped at criticisms over China’s militarization and its deployment of weapons in the South China Sea, as it asserted its rights over almost the entirety of the disputed waterway.
“These weapons are a symbol of Chinese sovereignty. Think about it. No matter what country, you can deploy military assets of your own territory. It’s a matter of sovereignty,” said Lt. Gen. He Lei, head of the Chinese delegation to the Shangri-La Dialogue, one of the world’s biggest security forums.
“South China Sea are part of Chinese territory. Historical records prove that it is recognized by international law. It’s undisputed,” he said Saturday in one of the simultaneous sessions, hours after US Defense Secretary James Mattis accused China of intimidation and coercion in the contested waters.
He said that “irresponsible comments” criticizing their activities were “unacceptable.”
China has deployed high-end weapons – including anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles and communication jammers – in some of its artificial islands in the South China Sea in recent weeks.
One of the islands, Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
China also landed bombers on Paracel Islands last month, triggering concerns from several nations.
The general’s comments marked the first time that China publicly acknowledged in an international gathering its activities in the disputed waters and its plans to continue to do so.