The tension in the highly contested area in the South China Sea has escalated to a much higher level as China completed the construction of a lighthouse in one of the islets.
On Tuesday, the Chinese government held a completion ceremony on Subi Island’s newly built lighthouse, a move that deviates provisions of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to which China is one of the signatory countries, Reuters reported.
Subi Island is one of the man-made islets in the Spratly Islands that China has made by dredging sand and coral reefs out from the sea using gigantic dredging tools. The Subi Island, or Zhubi Island for the Chinese, is just 26 km away from Thitu Island, a natural island occupied by the Philippines.
But Lu Kang, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Minister, said the lighthouse was built solely for scientific and in ensuring that it fulfills its international obligation in safeguarding maritime security. Kang added that the lighthouse would improve freedom of navigation in the area.
It also appeared that the lighthouse on Subi Island, which stands 55 meters or 180 feet, is only the first of the three lighthouses that China plans to build in the coming months. The report noted that apart from Subi Island, the Chinese government is also eyeing to erect lighthouses in Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef.
“[The lighthouse can provide efficient navigation services such as positioning reference, route guidance and navigation safety information to ships, which can improve navigation management and emergency response,” Kang was quoted as saying by the Reuters.
Meanwhile, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has recently reported China as one of the countries that increased its military spending in the past year. China is the world’s second biggest spender for its military and the second in the world with the biggest military expenditure increase.
In 2015, China spent a total of $215 billion for its military, making it the second biggest spender next to the U.S. That’s 7.4 percent higher than the previous year, just a few points away from Russia’s 7.5 percent military expenditure increase.