Beijing inaugurates airports on disputed reefs in South China Sea

Beijing: China has inaugurated two airports it built on the Meiji and Zhubi reefs that are part of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea, the official Chinese daily Global Times announced on Twitter on Thursday. China had unveiled another airport on the Yongshu reef in January this year, Efe news reported. The inauguration of the airports follows a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) earlier this week, which decided in favour of the Philippines in the territorial spat between the two neighbours in the region, which involves part of the Spratly islands, including the reefs where the airports were built. The Meiji and Zhubi reefs are also contested by Taiwan and Vietnam, although controlled by China. At a press conference on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated that China's policy regarding the South China Sea remains unchanged despite the PCA verdict because Beijing deems the ruling "illegal". The Spratly islands comprise a group of over 750 reefs, islets, atolls and keys whose sovereignty is either totally or partially claimed by China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. "If anyone wants to take any provocative action against China's security interests based on the ruling, China will respond decisively," Efe news quoted Lu as saying. Beijing has always dismissed the court case, initiated by former Philippine President Benigno Aquino, as "unilateral", although it has recently shown willingness to negotiate the dispute bilaterally with new President Rodrigo Duterte.