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Philippines rejects China demand to remove ship

MANILA--The Philippines on Friday rejected a Chinese demand that it remove a grounded navy ship from a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, saying the vessel is a permanent government outpost.

China's coast guard prevented two Philippine civilian vessels from delivering supplies to the rusting ship at Second Thomas Shoal on Sunday, escalating tensions in the area. The Philippines and the U.S. have called Beijing's action provocative. The shoal is called Ayungin in the Philippines and Ren'ai Reef in China.

The ship “was placed in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a permanent Philippine government installation in response to China's illegal occupation of Mischief Reef in 1995,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a statement Friday. Mischief Reef is another Philippine-claimed outcropping in the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea.

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