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Beijing reiterates right over S China Sea islands amid Vietnam activities

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang (Photo by AFP)

China has asserted its sovereignty rights over disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea as Vietnam begins dredging work in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Friday that his country’s sovereignty rights over the Spratly Islands were “indisputable,” and called on other states to help preserve calm in the contested waters.

“We hope and urge the relevant country can earnestly respect China's sovereignty and rights, stop illegal occupation and illegal construction activities, do not take any actions that could worsen the situation, meet China in halfway, make joint and due efforts to protect peace in the region of the South China Sea," he said.

This handout picture provided by the US-based satellite firm Planet Labs shows the Ladd Reef, in the Spratly Islands, the South China Sea, July 19, 2016. (Via Reuters)

Late last month, the US-based satellite firm Planet Labs released images showing Vietnamese vessels in a newly dug channel between the lagoon and open sea at the Ladd Reef, situated on the southwestern fringe of the Spratly Islands.

Analysts said the images hinted that Hanoi was preparing for extensive construction on the reef, which already hosts a lighthouse and an accommodation facility for Vietnamese soldiers.

Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, predicted that Vietnam could be working to use the reef as a post for fishing boats and supply ships.

China is involved in maritime disputes in the South China Sea, where several countries, including Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines, have overlapping claims.

A Hague-based court of arbitration recently ruled in a case brought by the Philippines that China’s claims to sovereignty over the disputed areas in the South China Sea were invalid. Beijing rejected the ruling and stressed that it does not recognize the decision.

The US has sent several of its warships to the South China Sea to protect what it calls “freedom of navigation” there, but Beijing accuses Washington of interfering in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions.

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