(From AFP)

Beijing will not take a “single step back” in the contested South China Sea, state-run media said Friday, despite reports of US naval patrols close to its artificial islands ahead of a tribunal ruling in the dispute.

A vendor sells a map of China including an insert with red dotted lines showing China’s claimed territory in the South China Sea, in Beijing

Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from Southeast Asian neighbours, and has rapidly turned reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

It is currently holding a week of military drills around the Paracel Islands in the northern part of the sea, during which other ships have been prohibited from entering the waters.

The Virginia-based Navy Times reported this week that three US destroyers — the Spruance, Stethem and Momsen — have been patrolling near the Chinese-claimed Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands further south.

In an editorial Friday, the Global Times newspaper, which is close to the ruling Communist Party and often takes a nationalistic tone, said: “If the US and the Philippines act on impulse and carry out flagrant provocation, China will not take a single step back.” Read More

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