BEIJING — Beijing reaffirmed its right to build on disputed islands in the South China Sea on Thursday after satellite imagery emerged of construction operations turning tropical reefs into concrete artificial islands.
The Philippines — one of the most vocal of China’s neighbors in defending its competing territorial claim — reacted strongly, calling for the Asian giant to “dismantle” the reclaimed land.
“They have to dismantle it,” said Peter Paul Galvez, spokesman for Manila’s defense department. “It is a concern not only of our country and region but of the whole international community.”
A series of satellite images posted on the website of the Center for Strategic and International Studies show a flotilla of Chinese vessels dredging sand onto Mischief Reef and the resulting land spreading in size.
Before-and-after images of other outcrops in the Spratly Islands record runways appearing from jungle, smooth-sided solid masses where coral once lay, and man-made harbors replacing natural reefs.
Analysts say the pictures show how China is attempting to create facts in the water to bolster its sovereignty claims.
Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost the whole of