Admiral Sun Jianguo
|Asia's largest defence summit concluded on Sunday amid growing fears of a legal and military showdown in the South China Sea over China's rapid construction of artificial islands with ports, airstrips and helipads in one of the world's most bitterly contested waterways.|
PLA Major-General Yao Yunzhu
|At the weekend-long Shangri-La Dialogue, Chinese military officials vowed to ignore a legal ruling expected in the next few weeks by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The Hague court is expected to rule on the legality of the so-called "nine-dash line", China's cartographic marker that it uses to claim territorial rights over most of the resource-rich sea.|
The nine-dash line, first shown on a 1947 Chinese map, carves out an area that runs deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, and overlaps claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
PLA Major-General Yao Yunzhu, speaking at the summit said the US military's presence in the disputed waters could be interpreted as "battlefield preparations".
|China is reportedly close to imposing an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), which would require civilian aircraft to identify themselves to military controllers in the region. Beijing made a similar declaration two years ago in the East China Sea over several islands contested by Japan.|
China has created islands and installed military hardware at a rapid pace and now asserts sovereignty over most of the 3.5 million-square-kilometre waterway.