If the US hoped to pressure China to abandon its huge building project in the disputed South China Sea, it may already be too late. China's Foreign Ministry says some of its land reclamation on seven reefs in the Spratly Islands will be finished in "upcoming days," and new outposts will soon be up and running, reports the AP. The country has been building fake islands in the area to house a runway and military facilities since last year, though the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei also claim ownership, reports Reuters. China says its use of the Spratlys will aid in maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, environmental protection, and undefined military purposes, and facilities will be built to "fulfill the relevant functions" when reclamation is complete.
The US, which has called for "a lasting halt" on Beijing's activity, says China has reclaimed about 2,000 acres; a 10,000-foot runway and airborne early-warning radar under construction on Fiery Cross Reef could be operating by the end of the year. China says the building projects are "lawful, reasonable, and justified." As the disputed territory includes some of the world's busiest shipping lanes, the ministry adds that the projects "do not affect the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by all countries in accordance with international law in the South China Sea." The US in particular has been concerned about free navigation. An analyst says the announcement is likely intended to lower tensions; Vietnam says its defense minister will head to Beijing this week for talks. (Read more China stories.)