Singapore, June 2: China on Sunday justified its building of islands and military facilities in the resource-rich but disputed South China Sea, saying “it is the legitimate rights of a sovereign state to carry out construction on its own territory”.
"China built limited defence construction on its islands and reefs for self defence. Where there are threats, there are defences. In the face if heavily armed warships and military aircraft, how can we stay impervious and not build some defence facilities," Defence Minister Wei Fengh said, addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's premier defence and security summit.
And in an apparent reference to the US, he said there are “people trying to rake in profits by stirring up troubles in the region”.
"Who is threatening security and stability in the South China Sea?" he asked and said countries outside the region "who come to flex muscles" would then "walk away and leave a mess behind."
The Chinese leader said the situation in the South China Sea, where four other ASEAN countries have claims, is moving towards greater stability.
"China and ASEAN countries have made positive progress in negotiating the Code of Conduct. We hope that relevant parties will not underestimate the wisdom and ability of regional countries to handle differences and maintain peace.
"However, we welcome constructive suggestions from all countries," Wei said.
Wei, the highest-ranking Chinese official to speak at the Shangri-La Dialogue in eight years. His speech came a day after the US Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the greatest long-term threat to countries in the Indo-Pacific region are those that seek to undermine the rules-based international order.
He reiterated China's firm position on Taiwan, warning against any forces' attempt to separate the island from the country.
"If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs for national unity," said the state councilor.
Wei said no attempts to split China shall succeed and foreign intervention in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure.
"Any underestimation of the PLA's (People's Liberation Army) resolve and will is extremely dangerous," he said.
"We will strive for the prospects of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and greatest efforts, but we make no promise to renounce the use of force. Safeguarding national unity is the sacred duty of the PLA," he told defence ministers, policy makers, experts from about 40 countries who gathered here from Friday to Sunday to discuss security issues in the Asia-Pacific. (UNI)