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China: "Nothing to hide" on islands, but no peeking!

Artificial islands under construction could become military bases
Rare look at China's artificial island-building project 04:00

As China continues to reclaim land in the South China Sea, the government is not allowing any reporters to see the islands, but CBS News correspondent Seth Doane got as close as any westerner might.

A reef belonging to China is close to an atoll claimed by Vietnam, and not far from a shoal belonging to the Philippines.

Filipino families worry as China expands island territory 03:31

Pag-asa, claimed by China and inhabited by Filipinos is just 13-miles from Subi Reef, one of the islands the Chinese have been creating.

China denied CBS News access to the artificial islands, which could become military bases, so Doane and his crew hired a local Filipino fisherman to help them get as close as possible.

One of the reasons the South China Sea is so valuable, reports Doane, is the proven 7 billion-barrels in oil reserves underneath the water -- equivalent to oil consumption of the entire United States for one year.

There are also the fisheries that provide men with a living, and busy shipping lanes that see five-times more oil tanker traffic than the Panama Canal.

Approaching Subi Reef, cranes become visible on the island. They dot the entire landscape, stretching the length of the island.

U.S. concerned over China's new artificial islands 01:41

Satellite images from early June reveal the pace of growth. In two months, the land-fill has expanded 74 percent. On some islands, China is adding eight acres a day.

Doane says it looks almost like a city has sprouted up in the middle of the sea. There is enough space for an airstrip and, through the sea haze, the faint outline of heavy equipment came into view as the CBS News team approached the reef.

And then, fisherman saw light signals appear in the distance, signals from the Chinese not to get any closer.

The boat captain became nervous and steered away from the island. He said it was too dangerous to get closer, worried about being detained by the Chinese.

Back in Beijing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to give CBS News any answers as to why journalists have been unable to visit the island-building projects and see the work first-hand.

"I can tell you for sure that the Chinese government has nothing to hide from the international community," spokeswoman Hua Chuying said.

China said it will stop expanding the islands, but that it will continue to build on them. The State Department has called the island construction a "threat to security."

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