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BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Tuesday that it has the right to construct necessary defensive facilities on its own territory after a US think tank said Beijing was able to deploy warplanes on artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea any time.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the work on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly Islands included naval, air, radar and defensive facilities.
The think tank cited satellite images taken this month, which its director, Greg Poling, said showed new radar antennae on Fiery Cross and Subi.
China has denied US charges that it is militarizing the South China Sea, although last week Premier Li Keqiang said defense equipment had been placed on islands in the disputed waterway to maintain “freedom of navigation.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday she was unaware of the details of the think tank’s report, but added the Spratly Islands were China’s inherent territory.
In recent years, the United States has conducted a series of what it calls freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, raising tensions with Beijing.