BEIJING - China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that China had a right to do what it wanted on its islands in the South China Sea as they were Chinese territory, and criticized the Philippines for what it called Manila's illegal occupation of some of the islands and construction work there.
"On the one hand, the Philippines keep making further provocative moves, and one the other hand makes thoughtless remarks about China's appropriate moves within the scope of our sovereignty. This is totally unreasonable," she told a daily news briefing.
Earlier on Monday, the Philippines said that China's "expansion agenda" in the disputed South China Sea threatened security and stability in the region, calling on all claimant states to halt construction activities that may raise tensions.
Albert del Rosario, foreign affairs secretary, said he supported U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Russel's proposal for China and Southeast Asian states to get together for dialogue.
Del Rosario said China and other claimant states have been rushing construction activities in their respective claimed territories to expand, citing works in Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson South Reef, Gaven Reef, and Cuarteron Reef.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, believed to have huge oil-and-gas deposits and rich in fishery resources. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims over the sea where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.
Del Rosario said Chinese construction in the Spratlys was an attempt to alter the character of the features, converting reefs into islands to be able to increase maritime entitlements.
China and Vietnam are also involved in an increasingly bitter spat over the operations of a Chinese oil rig in another part of the South China Sea, around the Paracel Islands.