"China is a complex nation. Many of the things they're doing have an adversarial nature to them," the current Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program said during a confirmation hearing in Senate Armed Services Committee referring to China's land reclamation project in the South China Sea.
The admiral called China's peaceful endeavor on the Spratly Islands "destabilizing for the region," adding that it "has increased the risk of miscalculation or conflict among regional actors."
On Friday, Xinhua quoted China's Defense Ministry as saying that it was paying close attention to Washington's attempts to "militarize" the region.
Beijing considers most parts of the South China Sea its own territory but Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam have made overlapping claims over this part of the Pacific Ocean. Washington is not a party to the various territorial disputes in the region and claims not to be taking sides.
"We do have a national security interest in ensuring disputes are resolved peacefully, countries adhere to the rule of law, and all nations fully respect freedom of the seas," the admiral said in a written testimony, which is exactly what Beijing is doing.
Beijing has always insisted that the construction on the Spratlys is purely peaceful in its nature. The reclamation efforts will "help maintain the safety of navigation in the region and meet strict environmental standards and requirements," Yang Yujun added.
Although many countries are engaged in land reclamation projects in the South China Sea, Washington has been especially critical of Beijing.
"The United States remains quiet when countries like the Philippines carry out large-scale construction projects and deploy armaments on China's islands which they illegally occupied. But the US makes irresponsible remarks about China's rightful activities on its own soil. This is a classic case of double standards," Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the ministry, noted.