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China vows to protect sea sovereignty

China vowed to take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty in the South China Sea and said it had the right to set up an air defence zone, after rejecting an international tribunal’s ruling that denied its claims in the region.

State media called the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague a “puppet” of external forces, after it ruled that China had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights by endangering its ships and fishing and oil projects.

China has repeatedly blamed the United States for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

“China will take all necessary measures to protect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said in a front page commentary on Wednesday.

The case, overseeing an energy-rich region that is home to also one of the world’s busiest trade routes, has been seen as a test of China’s rising power and its economic and strategic rivalry with the United States.

Beijing called the Philippines claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea “baseless” and an “act of bad faith”. In a government white paper published on Wednesday China also said its fishing boats had been harassed and attacked by the Philippines around the Spratly Islands.

U.S. officials have previously said they feared China may respond to the ruling by declaring an air defence identification zone in the South China Sea, as it did in the East China Sea in 2013, or by stepping up its building and fortification of artificial islands.

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