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Philippines releases photographs of Chinese 'reclamation'

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine government on Thursday released military surveillance photos of Chinese land reclamation on a reef claimed by Manila in the South China Sea that it said showed Beijing violated a regional agreement not to escalate territorial disputes.

Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Charles Jose said the pictures show Chinese aggressiveness in asserting its claims over the entire South China Sea.

The aerial photographs were accompanied by a caption stating that they were obtained from “Philippine intelligence sources.” The caption said the “extensive reclamation” by China on the Johnson South Reef, called Mabini by Manila and Chigua by Beijing, was “destabilizing.”

The Chinese Embassy in Manila had no immediate comment, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing has said that the area is part of China's territory, and that any Chinese activities at the reef should be of no concern to Manila.

Jose noted that a 2002 nonbinding agreement between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations calls for restraint in conducting activities in the region that would “complicate or escalate disputes” and to not inhabit uninhabited areas

“We want to show people that (China's) actions are part of its aggressive behavior to assert its claim in violation of the DOC,” or Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was signed by China, Philippines and nine other ASEAN members, Jose said.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said a stronger accord and international arbitration would offer more lasting solutions to the territorial conflicts. A proposed legally binding “code of conduct” between China and Southeast Asian countries is seen as a mechanism to prevent a major armed conflict in the disputed waters. Manila sought international arbitration against Beijing in January 2013 after Chinese government ships took control of a shoal claimed by the Philippines off its main island of Luzon.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday that it was not clear what China would build on the reclaimed land, but that an airstrip was a possibility.

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This undated photo released by the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) shows the alleged reclamation by China on what is internationally recognized as the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea, otherwise known as the Mabini Reef by the Philippines and Chigua Reef by China. (AFP)

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