A Chinese senior naval commander stressed on Sunday that the country’s exercises in the South China Sea “fall well within the scope of China’s sovereignty” and defended the building of islets in the disputed waters.
Speaking at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Department in the People's Liberation Army Admiral Sun Jianguo rejected US demands that China ends its reclamation missions in the South China Sea.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the meeting on Saturday expressed concerns over China's movements, which he claimed are threatening freedom of navigation and security in the region.
Carter also demanded from all claimants to halt their reclamations in the disputed waters, and particularly criticised Chinese moves in the region as a violation of international law.
“There should be an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants," said Ash Carter.
Carter also pointed out that the US opposes any further militarisation of disputed territories, warning that it would increase “the risk of miscalculation or conflict.”
He added, one of the claimants has overstepped in its pretension and provocative movements in the region, referring to Beijing.
"China has reclaimed over 2,000 acres, more than all other claimants combined and more than in the entire history of the region. And China did so in only the last 18 months," Carter said.
Admiral Sun, however, defended Chinese policy in the disputed waters saying there has been no violation of free navigation.
“The situation in the South China Sea is on the whole peaceful and stable, and there has never been an issue with the freedom of navigation," Admiral Sun said.
He also emphasised that with the artificial islands, China would easily provide international public services such as maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and relief, maritime scientific research, and environmental protection.
"China has carried out construction on some islands and reefs in the South China Sea mainly for the purpose of improving the functions of the relevant islands and reefs, and the working and living conditions of personnel stationed there.”
Sun said that the establishment of an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) around the disputed waters will depend on any threats to air or maritime security.
"There is no reason for people to play up this issue in the South China Sea," Sun said