By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) — A top Chinese general said Saturday that China’s newly
created islands in the disputed South China Sea are intended mainly to aid shipping and dismissed concerns that Beijing is seeking to strengthen its control over the strategically vital region.
General Fan Changlong’s remarks came as expectations grow that the U.S. might directly challenge Chinese claims in the South China Sea by sailing a Navy ship inside the 12-nautical mile (21-kilometer) territorial limit surrounding one of the man-made islands.
Concerns have been growing over the rapid appearance of islands created by piling sand atop reefs and atolls controlled by China, which is now adding, harbors, air strips and large buildings. The U.S. and others have called on Beijing to halt those projects, saying they are destabilizing an increasingly militarized region. [FULL STORY]