US commander accuses China of creating artificial landmass in South China Sea

BEIJING: A US navy commander has accused China of creating an “artificial landmass” in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

“China is building artificial land by pumping sand on to live coral reefs — some of them submerged — and paving over them with concrete. China has now created over 4 sq km (1.5 sq miles) of artificial landmass,” US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris said in a speech in Australia. Harris said the move has raised “serious questions” about China’s intensions. He said China was pumping vast amounts of sand and concrete to create a “Great Wall of sand” and fake islands.

Harris added it was endangering the environment because the sand was being poured on live corals. He described the move as part of a “pattern of provocative actions towards smaller claimant states” in the South China Sea.

Observers said the creation of new landmass near the disputed islands would strengthen China’s claims over them. China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying had earlier said the country’s operations in the disputed Spratly Islands fell “entirely within China’s sovereignty and are totally justifiable”.

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