BEIJING – China plans to build lighthouses on five islands in the South China Sea, state media reported Thursday, in defiance of calls from the United States and the Philippines for a freeze on such activity to ease tension over rival claims.
At least two of the islands upon which China said it will erect lighthouses appear to be in waters also claimed by Vietnam.
Overlapping claims in the South China Sea have fueled confrontation in recent months with China, which claims 90 percent of the sea, at odds with Vietnam and the Philippines in particular.
The state-run China News Service said Chinese authorities had been surveying sites for lighthouses on five islands, known in English as North Reef, Antelope Reef, Drummond Island, South Sand and Pyramid Rock.
The survey began on July 27, and “as of Aug. 4 construction sites and alternative locations for lighthouses on the five islands and reefs had been initially decided upon,” the news service said, quoting a Chinese navigation official.
Drummond Island and Pyramid Rock are in the China-controlled Paracel Islands — more than 100 small coral islands and reefs also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
It is not clear whether the other three islets where lighthouses will be built are also in disputed waters.
The proposal to freeze activities that could stir tension in the sea, such as building installations and exploiting resources, was put forward by the United States last month and taken up by the Philippines.
Southeast Asian foreign ministers are holding a conference in Myanmar this weekend which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will join.