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China tests new airports in Spratlys despite UN ruling

In this July 13 photo, a passenger jet of China Southern Airlines lands on the airport on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands. Xinhua/Chen Yichen

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing recently tested two new airports on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea with civil flights despite the ruling of a United Nations tribunal that its nine-dash line claim is invalid.

This increases the number of airports open to civil aircraft in the Spratly Islands to three.

According to a report from Chinese state news agency Xinhua, two flights on Wednesday took off from Haikou, the capital of Hainan province, at 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m., respectively.

The first flight landed on Mischief (Panganiban) Reef while the second flight landed on Subi (Zamora) Reef. Both flights returned to Haikou after a short stay on the Manila-claimed reefs.

The round trips were conducted to ensure that both airfields are prepared for civil flights, the report said.

Xinhua reported that the flights were preset and independent of the ruling of the UN's Permanent Court of Arbitration.

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READ: The verdict: Philippines wins arbitration case vs China

"Since the test flights were made on reefs belonging to China, it was purely an internal matter for the country. Even if China were to test fly warplanes, doing so would still be within its legitimate rights," Xinhua said.

China considers the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines as a "political farce" perpetrated by the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

In January, China opened its first airport in the Spratly Islands at the Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef.

China also has four multi-purpose lighthouses on Cuarteron (Calderon), Johnson South (Mabini), Subi (Zamora) and Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) reefs. A fifth lighthouse is being built on Mischief Reef.

Beijing claims that its recent building activities in the Spratly Islands are part of its efforts to provide necessary service for vessels and sailors in the region. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

RELATED: Think tank: China might occupy Scarborough, Ayungin after UN court ruling

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