The Philippine president appeared to revive his quarrels with China on Thursday, ordering his troops to occupy islands and reefs in the disputed South China Sea — and saying he may even stop by for a visit.
Rodrigo Duterte said the military should build structures on all of the Philippine-held islands, reefs and shoals in the contested Spratly Islands — not far from seven man-made Chinese islands in the area.
China’s construction of the islands is part of its claims of territorial sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, an important route for sea trade across Southeast Asia. Neighboring nations strongly oppose Beijing’s moves and worry that the runways and docks on the artificial islands could eventually have a military use.
Since winning the presidency last summer, the bombastic Duterte has struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone with Beijing, playing down a landmark ruling that rejected Chinese maritime claims and signaling that he was willing to work with Beijing in return for Chinese investment.
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