Beijing defends reclamation of South China Sea islands

Updated 09 April 2015

Beijing defends reclamation of South China Sea islands

BEIJING: China on Thursday sketched out plans for the islands it is creating in the disputed South China Sea, saying they would be used for military defense as well as to provide civilian services that would benefit other countries.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news briefing that the reclamation and building work in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea was needed partly because of the risk of typhoons in an area with a lot of shipping that is far from land.
“We are building shelters, aids for navigation, search and rescue as well as marine meteorological forecasting services, fishery services and other administrative services” for China and neighboring countries, Hua said.
The islands and reefs would also meet the demands for China’s military defense, Hua said without elaborating.
It’s rare for China to give such detail about its plans for the artificial islands. The rapid reclamation taking place on seven reefs has alarmed other claimants and drawn US criticism, including from Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who is visiting Japan and South Korea this week.
“The relevant construction is a matter that is entirely within the scope of China’s sovereignty. It is fair, reasonable, lawful, it does not affect and is not targeted against any country. It is beyond reproach,” Hua added.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.
All but Brunei have fortified bases in the Spratlys, which lie roughly 1,300 km (810 miles) from the Chinese mainland but much closer to the Southeast Asian claimants.
While China’s new islands will not overturn US military superiority in the region, workers are building ports and fuel storage depots as well as possibly two airstrips that experts have said would allow Beijing to project power deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
Western and Asian naval officials privately say that China could feel emboldened to try to limit both air and sea navigation once the reclaimed islands are fully established.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea does not legally allow for reclaimed land to be used to demarcate 12-nautical-mile territorial zones, but some officials fear China will not feel limited by that document and will seek to keep foreign navies from passing close by.
Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University, said that China probably felt it needed to give its side of the story following growing criticism from Washington over the reclamation.
“The motivation in giving an explanation is a good one, to set minds at ease,” Jin said.
Hua’s comments came hours after a Washington-based think tank published new satellite images that show China is quickly reclaiming land around Mischief Reef in the Spratlys within an area the Philippines regards as its exclusive economic zone.
The work on Mischief Reef is China’s most recent reclamation.


Paris bans daytime jogging as virus deaths hit new high

Updated 40 min 15 sec ago

Paris bans daytime jogging as virus deaths hit new high

  • Starting Wednesday, Paris will enforce a ban on individual outdoor sports between the hours of 10:00 am and 07:00 pm
  • Officials worry that confinement violations could further burden hospitals already overflowing with COVID-19 patients

PARIS:  Paris officials announced Tuesday that they would ban daytime jogging to keep people from bending anti-coronavirus lockdown rules, after France recorded its biggest daily jump in the death toll from the outbreak.
Under nationwide stay-at-home orders that came into force on March 17, people can leave their homes only for essential purposes, which until now included a solo walk or run within a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) radius of home.
But amid a spell of sunny spring weather, large groups of Parisians were seen running, walking and congregating over the weekend, even as police stepped up patrols and issued fines for lockdown violations.
Starting Wednesday, Paris will enforce a ban on individual outdoor sports between the hours of 10:00 am and 07:00 pm.
Officials worry that confinement violations could further burden hospitals already overflowing with COVID-19 patients, and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Monday urged municipal officials to toughen restrictions if necessary.
“Every excursion avoided aids the fight against the epidemic,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and police chief Didier Lallement said in a statement.
Also Tuesday, the Atlantic coastal resort city of Biarritz limited the period people can sit on benches or in other public areas to two minutes maximum, saying confinement meant that “dawdling is prohibited.”
Paris, Biarritz and other cities have already closed public parks and gardens as part of the nationwide lockdown that requires people to carry a document justifying any excursion from the home.
Those caught without the document risk a fine starting at €135 ($147).
In the north of France, the mayor of Marcq-en-Baroeul has made spitting in public, coughing or sneezing without covering one’s face, and throwing used masks and gloves in the street punishable by a fine of 68 euros.
The tougher rules came after Health Minister Olivier Veran announced Monday a record daily coronavirus death toll of 833 people in 24 hours.
“It is not over,” the minister said, urging people to “stay at home and continue this confinement effort.”
Like many other nations, France debated Tuesday the merits of encouraging, or compelling, people to wear face masks to prevent asymptomatic virus-carriers from passing it on to others.
Veran said Tuesday that it remained an “open question” that required further scientific investigation.
France’s Academy of Medicine, which advises the government on epidemics, has advocated mask-wearing as an aid in curbing the outbreak, but international bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) disagree.
But Hidalgo said in a radio interview Tuesday that she would not oblige face mask use for now, though she did encourage people to cover their faces in public.
France’s finance ministry, meanwhile, said dozens of companies have produced 3.9 million fabric masks for non-medical professional use in the past week, and will produce 6.6 million more in the days to come.
The country’s Order of Pharmacists and two labor unions urged the government, meanwhile, to allow pharmacies to sell “alternative” non-medical grade masks to members of the public as an added protection.
The WHO said Monday that asking the general public to wear face masks could be justified in areas where hand-washing and physical distancing were difficult, but warned that masks alone could not stop the pandemic.