South China Sea row: Prepare for possible 'war on water', Chinese defense minister urges countrymen
The Chinese defense minister has warned of offshore security threats over the growing tension in the South China sea and urged the military, police and general population to be prepared to defend the country's territorial integrity.
Chang Wanquan called for a "recognition of the seriousness of the national security situation, especially the threat from the sea," according to the Xinhua news agency.
Chang’s comments came several weeks after an international tribunal dismissed the country's claim to most of the South China Sea, a judgement it angrily rejected.
The military, police and people should prepare to mobilise to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, he was quoted as saying during a tour of the coastal province of Zhejiang.
The general public should be educated about national defense issues because national sovereignty and territorial integrity are at risk, according to the minister.
China has been building airstrips and military installations on reclaimed reefs and islands in waters also claimed by a number of other Asian states.
The UN-backed tribunal denied China's claims to an EEZ in the Spratly Islands, where the Chinese coastguard regularly expels fishing vessels from the Philippines.
Beijing refused to accept the ruling, saying the court had no jurisdiction.
The US Navy has dispatched warships and military planes to the immediate proximity of the disputed islands, claiming it has done so to ensure the principles of freedom of navigation in international waters. Washington has been also involved in a number of military drills in the region.