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June 26, 2017

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China reclaiming more land, boosting military in Spratlys: Philippines

MANILA -- China has been reclaiming more land to bolster its military presence in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where its increasing assertion of its territorial claims has brought it into standoffs with its neighbors, Philippine officials said Thursday.

The Philippines protested in April after discovering that Chinese dredging ships had reclaimed a large patch of land in Johnson Reef in the Spratlys that it could use to build a military outpost or an airstrip far from the Chinese mainland.

President Benigno Aquino III said Thursday that he was bothered after seeing surveillance photos of ships capable of reclaiming land in the vicinity of two other Chinese-occupied reefs in the Spratlys called Cuarteron and Gaven.

"We are again bothered that there seems to be development in other areas within the disputed seas," Aquino said at a news conference.

When asked whether reclamation of land was underway in the two Chinese-controlled reefs, Aquino did not give a clear reply, but two military officials told The Associated Press that government surveillance had monitored land reclamation activities in Cuarteron and Gaven.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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