US Secretary of State John Kerry had strong words for Beijing, as tensions over the disputed South China Sea surfaced at the East Asia Summit on Thursday.
He slammed China – saying it is building facilities for ‘military purposes’ on man-made islands in the sea, raising tensions and risking ‘militarisation’ by other claimant states.
“I made clear our belief that the claimants to some of these reefs, islands, to some of these areas, should all of them, every one of them, take concrete steps in order to try to lower the tensions by refraining from further land reclamation, militarisation and construction projects,” Kerry said at the regional meeting in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
His blunt criticism of Beijing came in front of his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
Kerry also accused China of not allowing freedom of navigation and overflights in the Spratly archipelago, despite giving assurances that such movements would not be impeded.
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea. But overlapping claims come from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
China says the outposts will have undefined military purposes, as well as helping with maritime search and rescue, disaster relief and navigation.
Wang said on Wednesday that Beijing had halted land reclamation in the South China Sea and expressed a desire to resolve the thorny issue through dialogue with regional partners.
Kerry described that commitment as not as “fulsome” as some had hoped.