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China says it’s entitled to keep watch over island claims

BEIJING (AP) — China said Thursday it is entitled to keep watch over airspace and seas surrounding artificial islands it created in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, following a reported exchange in which its navy warned off a U.S. surveillance plane.

The comments came as the Chinese air force announced its latest offshore training exercises in the western Pacific as part of efforts to boost its combat preparedness. An air force spokesman said that followed an initial offshore drill held last month and future such exercises would likely be planned.

Speaking at a regular daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reiterated Beijing’s insistence on its indisputable sovereignty over the islands it has created by piling sand on top of atolls and reefs.

While saying he had no information about the reported exchange, Hong said China was “entitled to the surveillance over related airspace and sea areas so as to maintain national security and avoid any maritime accidents.

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