China hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, Chinese state media said today, a move that was expected to heighten tensions in a region already concerned about Beijing's maritime ambitions.
According to state news agency Xinhua, China`s Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef on the disputed Spratly islands, defying calls from the US and the Philippines for a freeze on such activity.
The reefs are known as Cuateron Reef and Johnson South Reef in English.
The Philippines, last year, accused China of reclaiming land on Johnson South Reef, apparently to build an airstrip.
Most of the South China Sea through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, is claimed by China. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have also laid claims to the region.
According to Xinhua, the lighthouses were built to "to improve the navigation safety in the South China Sea".
US China relations have seen increased tensions over Beijing`s construction activities in the South China Sea. According to the Pentagon, the work was aimed at cementing China`s claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea - an area said to have significant energy reserves and rich fishing grounds.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou had called for joint development of resources in the contested South China Sea, where island-building by China and other claimants had led to tensions.
Ma today called on nations boarding the sea to show restraint and presented a South China Sea peace plan at a forum in Taipei. The proposal had been modeled on one he unveiled regarding disputed areas of the adjacent East China Sea in 2012.
Ma said, ''Experience tells us that the only way to resolve disputes among South China Sea countries is to maintain an approach of reconciliation, cooperation and peace. Whether in the Taiwan Strait, East China Sea, or South China Sea, our approach is the same: to resolve disputes through peaceful means.''
The government of Taiwan is not recognised by China and fellow claimants, and it had not been involved in talks with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the waters.