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China refuses comment on reported reclamation halt in Scarborough

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying holds a regular press briefing in Beijing. FMPRC/Released

MANILA, Philippines — Days before the inaugural meeting of the bilateral consultation mechanism between the Philippines and China, Beijing refused to comment on the reported halt of land reclamation activities in Scarborough or Panatag Shoal.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry stressed that Beijing's position on issues surrounding the shoal in the disputed South China Sea is consistent and clear.

"Whatever we choose to do or not to do is within our own sovereignty. China will properly deal with relevant issues," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press briefing Wednesday.

Hua made the statement after being asked to comment on reports that China would not conduct land reclamation activities on Scarborough Shoal in the next 12 months.

The Philippines and China are enjoying a sound momentum in developing bilateral relations, Hua said.

"The two countries are on the track of implementing the consensus reached between the two leaders on upholding good neighborliness and friendship, properly handling disputes and working together for common development," the spokesperson said.

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Located 120 nautical miles from Zambales, Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc is a traditional common fishing ground.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier warned that Beijing is likely to start building military facilities on the shoal as part of their strategy in countering the United States.

"Scarborough Shoal guards the exit to the Pacific because the Chinese submarines, nuclear-armed submarines are based in Hainan (Island) and if they fire their missiles in the South China Sea, those missiles will not reach the US because the range is only about 7,500 kilometers," Carpio said in a television interview a few weeks ago.

Scarborough Shoal may be the last feature in the Spratly Islands that Beijing will reclaim and build into an artificial island to house air and naval base, the SC magistrate said.

"If they reclaim it, it will be like their reclamation in Mischief Reef where they have a runway, they have a harbor for warships and their warships from there can go to the Bashi Channel to protect their outlet to the Pacific," Carpio said.

RELATED: Why China is likely to militarize Scarborough Shoal

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