China rejects US calls in lighthouse dispute

China announced its plans Thursday to build lighthouses on islands in the disputed South China Sea despite U.S. calls to freeze these projects.

Chinese officials looked into construction sites for these lighthouses late last month, according to Reuters, even though other countries have claims to the sea. 

“As of Aug. 4 construction sites and alternative locations for lighthouses on the five islands and reefs had been initially decided upon,” the China News Service said, quoting a Chinese navigation official.

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A Chinese official explained the lighthouses are needed for navigational purposes and to improve the regulation and safety of their ships. 

At least two of the islands are in waters claimed by Vietnam, Reuters noted. China has claimed 90 percent of the sea.

The U.S. and the Philippines have both called on China to halt these provocative moves. Secretary of State John Kerry could discuss the matter at a conference in Myanmar this weekend with his Southeast Asian counterparts, Reuters added.

Tensions between China and its neighboring countries escalated last year, after it declared a self-imposed Air Defense Zone over the sea, where it also claimed a set of islands also claimed by Japan.