BEIJING, May 26 (UPI) -- China has openly admitted that its navy intends to defend the country's sovereign claims over the disputed Spratly Islands.
In a publicly released statement, Beijing said the offshore lands in the vast South China Sea were being monitored, and China's air force also was ready to guard the reclaimed land, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
China defended its position, stating the U.S. military-led pivot to Asia and Japan's drastic reinterpretation of its pacifist Constitution were underlying reasons for the new security measure.
"We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked," read the statement from China's State Council.
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Ma Zhaoxu made similar statements about China's need to "safeguard its sovereignty" in an editorial, published in The West Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Tuesday.
Without giving the option of a peaceful negotiation much consideration, the Chinese ambassador said China's "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands claimed by Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam overrides concern for international law.
China's immediate neighbors, especially the Philippines, have protested Beijing's unilateral actions. Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said his country is "being oppressed" by Beijing's actions, and sought U.S. help in the matter.
Washington has refrained from taking sides in the dispute, but defends its national interest in maintaining freedom of navigation in the area around the Spratlys.
Ma wrote in his editorial that China's construction activity will "not affect freedom of navigation in that part of the sea in any way," adding that China discovered the islands between 23 A.D. and 220 A.D., during the Han Dynasty.
China's state-controlled Global Times issued a warning that "war was inevitable" if the United States obstructed China's land reclamation activities on the Spratly Islands.