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Philippines issues first protest vs China under Duterte

In this July 2016 file photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay chats with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua at Malacañan Palace in Manila. PPD

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has filed a low-key diplomatic protest with China after a U.S. think thank reported that Beijing appears to have installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its man-made islands in the strategically vital South China Sea, the country's top diplomat said Monday.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said a note verbale was issued after the report came out last month.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies report said that anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems designed to guard against missile attack have been placed on all seven of China's newly created islands.

Yasay told CNN Philippines that Manila had responded, but did so quietly.

"We have taken action on that, we have issued a note verbale," he said, referring to a diplomatic communication that is issued in the third person and is not signed. It is less formal than a diplomatic note.

He did not say when it was issued, adding it was a matter that he did not want to discuss.

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"I just want to assure the Filipino people that when we take action at engaging China in this dispute, we do not want to take such aggressive, provocative action that will not solve the problem," he said. "We cannot engage China in a war."

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