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Asserting sovereignty, Beijing defends land reclamation in disputed South China Sea

FILE - In this July 15, 2012 file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese fishing vessel sails by Fiery Cross Reef, background, also known as Yongshu Reef by the Chinese, of the Spratly Islands in South China Sea. Defying a U.S. call to halt the project, China defended its land reclamation in the disputed Spratly Islands on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, saying the work is for public service use, although a London-based security group says the new island could host a military airfield to intimidate neighbors. In a recent report, IHS Jane's said satellite images taken in August and November showed that Chinese dredgers had created a land mass almost the entire length of Fiery Cross Reef, which was previously under water. The security group said it is China's largest construction project in the island chain. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Wang Cunfu, File) NO SALES

FILE - In this July 15, 2012 file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese fishing vessel sails by Fiery Cross Reef, background, also known as Yongshu Reef by the Chinese, of the Spratly Islands in South China Sea. Defying a U.S. call to halt the project, China defended its land reclamation in the disputed Spratly Islands on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, saying the work is for public service use, although a London-based security group says the new island could host a military airfield to intimidate neighbors. In a recent report, IHS Jane's said satellite images taken in August and November showed that Chinese dredgers had created a land mass almost the entire length of Fiery Cross Reef, which was previously under water. The security group said it is China's largest construction project in the island chain. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Wang Cunfu, File) NO SALES  (The Associated Press)

China has defended its land reclamation in a disputed area of the South China Sea and says it is for public service use, although a London-based security group says the new island could host an airfield to intimidate neighbors.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday at a regular briefing that China has "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei.

Hua said the construction on some reefs is aimed at allowing Chinese citizens to better perform search-and-rescue and other services.

IHS Jane's has said satellite images taken in August and November show what could be China's first military airstrip in the Spratly Islands, and could be aimed at helping Beijing coerce neighboring countries into relinquishing claims on disputed waters.