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China says reports of monitoring station on disputed island are false

China says reports of monitoring station on disputed island are falseChinese foreign ministry said Wednesday that China is not building an environmental monitoring station on a disputed South China Sea shoal, according to The Associated Press.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said reports about the facility on Scarborough Shoal had been checked and were found to be false.

"That does not exist at all," Hua told reporters at a regularly scheduled news briefing.

The official Hainan Daily newspaper had quoted the top official in Sansha City, which administers China's island claims, as saying that preparatory work on the station was among the government's top priorities for 2017.

Such a move would likely renew concerns among Beijing's neighbours over its assertive territorial claims in the sea.

Beijing seized tiny, uninhabited Scarborough in 2012 after a tense standoff with Philippine vessels.

Manila said Wednesday it had asked for a clarification of the earlier remarks by Shansha Communist Party head Xiao Jie.

Acting Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo told Filipino reporters in the Thai capital, Bangkok, where President Rodrigo Duterte is visiting, that his department asked for clarification of the reported planned construction on Scarborough Shoal.

"I think the president has been very clear — we want to have a peaceful, diplomatic settlement of disputes but we will not fail to protect our national interests if necessary," Manalo said.

Asked if a diplomatic protest would be filed, he said Manila will wait for China's reply.

But Manalo said he considered it a good sign that China was interested in concluding a framework for a "code of conduct" with 10 Southeast Asian nations that aims to peacefully manage disputes in the South China Sea. He said there could be progress on the framework when China hosts a meeting in May.
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