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China still building South China Sea islands: think-tank

Its sweeping claims overlap with those of ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.

China on Sunday scored a diplomatic coup when foreign ministers from the 10-member ASEAN bloc released a diluted joint statement on the dispute that failed to mention China on the issue and agreed to its terms on how to negotiate a resolution.

Nevertheless, China was angered by wording in the statement pushed by Vietnam that expressed concerns by some about land reclamations, even though it did not name Beijing.

The Philippines had for many years stood alongside Vietnam as one of the strongest opponents to Chinese expansionism.

A United Nations-backed tribunal ruled last year that China’s territorial claims in the sea were without legal basis.

But the Philippines, under President Rodrigo Duterte’s new administration, decided not to use the verdict to pressure. It instead built closer ties with China in return for billions of dollars worth of investments and aid.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters on Tuesday he had lobbied against referring to land reclamation in the ASEAN statement because he believed China had stopped.

“They (Chinese) are not reclaiming land anymore,” Cayetano

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