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Beijing says South China Sea land reclamation 'stopped'
[KUALA LUMPUR] China said on Wednesday it has finished the land reclamation work in the South China Sea that has brought growing condemnation from its neighbours and the United States.
But a Southeast Asian diplomatic source said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his counterparts from the region at a high-level security forum that Beijing would press on with plans for construction on the newly-created islands.
"China has already stopped. You look, who is building? Take a plane and look for yourself," Mr Wang told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting when asked about the reclamation work.
China has sparked alarm by expanding tiny reefs in the flashpoint sea and constructing military posts on some of them to shore up its disputed territorial claims to most of the sea.
Its neighbours have increasingly chafed at actions seen as violating a pledge by rival claimants to the strategic seaway not to take steps that could stoke conflict.
During a meeting with his Southeast Asian counterparts on Wednesday, Mr Wang told them that land reclamation was completed but that construction would continue, the diplomatic source said.
Mr Wang said the construction projects would include lighthouses, medical and emergency rescue facilities and meteorological and marine installations, the source added.
The security forum is hosted by the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Asean has for years called on China to negotiate a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, a binding set of rules aimed at preventing actions that lead to conflict.
Beijing showed little interest but in 2013 agreed to engage in "consultations" on the issue, although not full negotiations.
Mr Wang called Wednesday for the process to be speeded up.
"Countries bordering the South China Sea should... speed up the COC consultations and actively explore preventative measures for managing maritime risks," he told reporters.
Analysts, however, have long said China was seeking to slow the process while building up its presence on disputed islets.