China says it has stopped its controversial island-building project in the South China Sea

Indeed, controversial.
Indeed, controversial.
Image: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
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China’s island-building spree in the South China Sea has come to a halt, according to its top diplomat.

Foreign minister Wang Yi announced today (Aug. 5) that the country’s provocative land reclamation projects in the region have already stopped. He urged those who questioned him to “just take an aeroplane to take a look,” Reuters reports.

The announcement came after US secretary of state John Kerry spoke with Yi on the sidelines of a meeting at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Kerry said that halting  ”problematic actions” in the region would provide an opportunity for diplomacy.

In his conversation with Yi, Kerry highlighted long-held US concerns—shared by many of China’s neighbors—about Chinese land reclamation projects in disputed waters,  according to a state department official who spoke to the New York Times. China has indeed mentioned in the past that these islands were built for “civilian services” such as weather forecasting, but critics say they also have military purposes.

The ASEAN meeting also agreed to speed up consultations on a code of conduct for the South China Sea, Reuters reports.