Constructions in South China Sea 'to boost search and rescue efforts and international liaison'
China's ongoing efforts to build and upgrade infrastructure on islands and reefs in the South China Sea will improve its maritime search and rescue capability and help other nations, according to military experts.
They were speaking after China invited the international community to use its facilities in the waterway for anti-piracy and humanitarian missions.
"Anyone can see from the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that China lacks sufficient maritime search and rescue force in the South China Sea," Yin Zhuo, director of the Expert Consultation Committee of the People's Liberation Army navy, told China Daily.
"Under international maritime conventions, China has responsibilities to perform rescue operations in the South China Sea.
"However, if our rescue team is based in Hainan province, it will take several days for large ships to reach the scene of a wreck, and aircraft will have short ranges due to fuel limitations," he said.
"So it is very necessary to construct or upgrade infrastructure on islands and reefs in the South China Sea, as we can then send rescue ships and planes there in case of emergency."
Yin's remarks follow an invitation from the top commander of the PLA navy for the international community to use Chinese facilities in the South China Sea for anti-piracy and humanitarian missions.
Admiral Wu Shengli said China's construction work on islands and reefs will not threaten freedom of navigation and overflights.
"Instead, the infrastructure will enhance China's capabilities to provide public services such as weather forecasting and maritime assistance.
"It will enable China to better perform its international obligation to protect maritime security," Wu was quoted as saying in a news release by the PLA navy.
Wu was speaking last week in his first video conversation with Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the U.S. Navy's chief of naval operations.
Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said Wu made the offer to help the U.S. to understand China's intentions behind its construction and upgrading efforts.
During their discussion, Wu urged the two navies to maintain regular communication between their leaderships, to deepen exchanges between their front-line commanders and sailors, and to stage more joint drills.
However, he warned that close-range reconnaissance operations by U.S. ships and aircraft of Chinese military assets are "totally out of step" with the two nations' efforts to improve their relations.
Wu asked the U.S. to cherish the ties between the two countries and their militaries.
Greenert said he hopes both countries will strengthen implementation of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, and avoid accidents in the air and at sea caused by misunderstanding or misjudgment.