China still building islands in disputed South China Sea: security think tank

Beijing pressures Singapore over South China Sea

US destroyer sent to Chinese waters as North Korea crisis deepens

This was the second time a U.S. warship entered waters within 12 nautical miles of Meiji Reef without China's permission in recent months.

China said in July that its navy had the right to pass though a strait linking it with the Pacific Ocean, after one of its warships entered the area.

Party bosses in Beijing lay claim to huge swathes of the disputed South China Sea.

Since the mid-1990s, China has increasingly resorted to delaying tactics in handling these maritime and territorial disputes. "They're not reclaiming land anymore, there are reclamations in the past and have not started reclaiming again, and there is a general statement [from the Chinese], so I accepted it", the Filipino diplomat said.

"At this time, if you ask who is carrying out reclamation, it is definitely not China-perhaps it is the country that brings up the issue that is doing it", Wang said.

China "scored a coup" during ASEAN's latest security summit when ASEAN countries issued a watered-down statement on the South China Sea disputes. The nuclear threats of North Korea against the USA, which attract major global attention on the other hand, represent part of China's indirect response route via "hard politics".

The head of China's air force has blasted a Japanese Defense Ministry white paper critical of Chinese military drills in and over waters near Japan, saying "the Sea of Japan is not Japan's sea".

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The expert also shared his thought on the possibility of an open military confrontation in the South China Sea. On Thursday, he suggested that he might spare China trade penalties if it did more to curtail North Korea. This is partly because not all 10 members are claimants to the South China Sea.

But China scoffed at the U.S., calling the move a "provocation" that could seriously damage the two countries' strategic trust and also create difficulties and obstacles for their defence forces, Reuters reported.

Tensions in the region escalated after China began to turn seven reefs in the Spratly group, including Mischief, which is also claimed by USA defence treaty ally the Philippines, into islands, including three with runways.

"And the point of that is to demonstrate that the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows".

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Logan declined to comment on whether there had been a freedom of navigation sailing but he said the United States would continue to do such operations.

"They happen off the coast of Canada" and "in the waters off shore of our major allies, friends, partners all around the world", she said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano claimed Tuesday the Philippines did not want to mention land reclamation in the Joint Communiqué of the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as China is no longer reclaiming land. Despite the 65 year-old U.S. -Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, the Philippines was not sure Washington would back it militarily in a conflict with China.

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