Why a Chinese officer said South China Sea island fortification is driven by ‘threats’


BEIJING — China may further fortify man-made islands in the South China Sea depending on threats faced by the outposts, a Chinese naval officer said Wednesday.

Navy academy researcher Senior Capt. Zhang Junshe repeated China’s stance that it has the legal right to take whatever measures it deems appropriate on the islands in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.

“If our on-island personnel and installations come under threat in future, then we necessarily will take measures to boost our defensive capabilities,” Zhang, a senior researcher at the institute, said at a briefing for Chinese and foreign journalists.

Pentagon officials have long said that China has failed to fulfill a 2015 pledge by President Xi Jinping not to expand development in the area, where it has built seven islands by piling sand and cement on coral reefs, equipping some with airfields.

China says the development primarily serves civilian purposes.