MANILA, May 14 (UPI) -- China is developing land on a disputed reef in the South China Sea, the Philippine defense department said Wednesday.
A spokesman for the Philippines Department of National Defense said satellite imagery taken earlier this year confirmed "earth moving activities" in the area of Johnson South Reef, called Chigua in China and Mabini by the Philippines. A Philippine protest was rejected by China, and after a summit meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Myanmar over the weekend, officials released information about the construction activities.
National Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said it was not certain what was being built on the reef, but the Philippines Foreign Affairs office said it appeared to be a landing strip. He added sand and rocks are being moved from surrounding areas to enlarge the reef.
"I can tell you the reef is Chinese territory and Chinese construction...is completely within China's jurisdiction," spokeswoman Hua Chunying of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
A spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino, Edwin Lacierda, noted Wednesday that China is a signatory to a non-binding declaration to keep peace in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines are contesting the sovereignty of small islands and atolls.