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China: South China Sea stations have always been there

FILE - In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The Philippines’ top diplomat says China remains opposed to a legally-binding code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea even as negotiations have progressed on other elements of such a code. Acting Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said Tuesday, April 4, 2017, talks between China and Southeast Asian countries on the code’s framework have made headway but have not yet touched on whether the code will be legally-binding - as the Philippines and its neighbors want. Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing reiterated that its construction activities on several islands in the disputed South China Sea are for the benefit of its people stationed there.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, however, stressed that China has never used the term "artificial islands" where they have stationed people.

"Relevant islands where we station our personnel are not created by magic tricks. They have been there since always," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press briefing last Friday.

Hua added that the construction on islands in the South China Sea is to improve the working and living conditions of people stationed in the region.

The statement was made in response to a report that the Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson said that there is no such issue of artificial islands amid Beijing's construction and deployment of radars on islands and reefs in the disputed waters.

"The Chinese side has repeatedly expressed its position on construction in the South China Sea. Necessary construction by the Chinese side on some of its islands is to improve the working and living conditions of people stationed there, and better its public services for international vessels passing by," Hua said.

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Hua added that the deployment of defense facilities in the region is part of China's safeguarding of its own territory.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to occupy the country's claimed islands in the South China Sea following reports that Beijing's facilities in the disputed region are early finished. The AFP has since clarified that it will focus on improving the living conditions of troops in established outposts

The Chinese Foreign Ministry had expressed concern over Duterte's order to occupy Manila-claimed islets in the South China Sea.

"Having noted the report, the Chinese side is concerned about it. We hope the Philippine side will continue to properly manage maritime disputes with China and work with us to maintain the sound and steady growth of China-Philippines relations," Hua said.

The Philippines controls nine islets in the Spratly Islands: Pag-asa Island, Ayungin Shoal, Lawak Island, Parola Island, Patag Island, Kota Island, Rizal Reef, Likas Island and Panata Island.

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