Philippines to occupy and fortify Spratly islands it claims

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte first made the threat on April 6 when he told reporters

The Philippines president appeared to revive his quarrels with China on Thursday, ordering Philippine troops to occupy islands and reefs in the disputed South China Sea - and said may even stop by for a visit.

"China has improved relations with Duterte immediately, and set up a way to settle the South China Sea disputes peacefully", said Yan Xuetong, an worldwide relations professor at Tsinghua University, at the time.

Beijing asserts sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, and has built artificial reef-top islands that are capable of accommodating missiles and military planes.

Duterte has previously sought to improve his nation's relations with China by adopting a non-confrontational approach, but that may be changing.

Duterte also said "bunkers or houses and provisions for habitation" were to be built, but it was unclear how his order can be executed.

China and others in the neighborhood have developed some unorthodox ways to stake out their claims in the rough and tumble South China Sea.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, where about US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) worth of seaborne goods pass yearly.

His efforts to engage China, months after a tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing did not have historic rights to the South China Sea, marks an astonishing reversal in foreign policy since he took office on June 30.

A United States think tank said it has spotted a Chinese fighter jet on a Beijing-controlled island in the disputed South China Sea for the first time in almost a year.

Meanwhile, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the occupation of uninhabited islands it claims in the South China Sea on Friday.

Duterte also told the military to make its presence felt there to ensure the safety of Filipino fishermen and residents of Pag-asa Island.

"The Philippines is not allowed to do that, occupy new territories in the Spratly, based on the 2002 agreement", said the navy official.

The Philippines controls 10 areas in the West Philippine Sea: Pagasa (Thitu) Island, Likas (West York) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay), Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Kota (Loaita) Island, Patag (Flat) Island, Panata (Lankiam Cay), Rizal (Commodore) Reef, Balagtas (Irving) Reef, and Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

Glaser told Reuters news agency that "Duterte seems to be under great domestic pressure and criticism" on issues connected to the South China Sea.

"We have made tremendous progress in our relationship with China", Trump said. The Spratlys are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.

- In May 2014, the introduction by China of a drilling rig into waters near the Paracel Islands led to multiple collisions between Vietnamese and Chinese ships.

"Currently the situation in South China Sea is generally stabilized and improving".

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