China to continue militarising disputed ocean

Chinese military on the Spratly Islands (Reuters)
Chinese military on the Spratly Islands (Reuters)

China has defiantly suggested it will continue militarising disputed parts of the South China Sea, despite a United Nations ruling this week rejected the country's claims to rights over the area.

Speaking on The Nation, China's ambassador to New Zealand Wang Luton admitted China already has military installations on the atolls where it has reclaimed land.

"We've stationed some defence weapons on these islands, and that's for the defence. That's defensive in nature," he said.

"I could admit that the military purposes on the reclamation of the land, because we've got to protect our own interest and rights [sic].

"Other countries have been stationing troops, tanks and weapons on islands and some other countries have been [sic] sending war ships and war planes to this region.

Answering a question about satellite images showing China built a missile launcher, runways and military installations on a South China Sea atoll, Mr Luton said: "I think it's our own right to do anything within our own backyard."

The UN's 497-page ruling on July 12 said: "There was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the 'nine-dash line'," referring to a demarcation line on a 1947 map of the sea, which is rich in energy, mineral and fishing resources.

In response to the ruling, Mr Luton said: "We would not abide any decision. There is no question of implementing or executing the outcome of this ruling."

Sovereignty over the South China Sea is contested by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

China's military activity has been condemned by many international leaders, including New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, who has said China should demilitarise in the area.

Mr Luton told The Nation: "This is not an issue between China and New Zealand, and I think it's in the mutual interest of China and New Zealand to maintain peace and stability in this region."