China’s land reclamation is creating a «great wall of sand» in the South China Sea, a top US official says, leading to «serious questions» on its intentions.
US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris made the comments in a speech in Australia on Tuesday night.
He said by pumping sand on to coral reefs and adding concrete, China had created «over 4sq/km (1.5 sq miles) of artificial landmass».
China has overlapping claims with neighbours in the South China Sea.
It has been reclaiming land in contested waters – something it said last year was «totally justified» as it had «sovereignty» over the area.
In recent months images have emerged of Chinese construction on reefs in the Spratly Islands to create artificial islands with facilities that could potentially be for military use, including an air strip.
Several nations, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan, also claim ownership of territory in the Spratly Islands.