Philippines was deliberately trying to frighten people by saying that China warned a small civilian plane flown by Manila close to a Beijing-built island in the disputed South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday, according to Reuters. Hong’s comments came a day after Philippine officials said they received two radio warnings from Chinese navy when they flew the Cessna aircraft on Jan. 7 to Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the Spratlys for inspection.
"The Philippines' comments are just frightening words to scare people, deliberately exaggerating regional tensions with treacherous intent, and its plots will not succeed," Hong said, according to Reuters.
Hong maintained that China has authority over the Spratlys archipelago and that the Philippines illegally occupied eight islands in the region since the 1970s, including Thitu. He also said that any activity by Manila on the islands was illegal, referring to the Philippines’ plans to set up a $1 million satellite-based system on Thitu to track commercial flights over the South China Sea, after Beijing landed its first test flights earlier this month on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly islands, according to Reuters.
China has laid claims to almost all of South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in international trade passes each year, resulting in territorial disputes with several countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia that have overlapping claims. Beijing is also involved in a separate dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.
Earlier this month, retired major general Xu Guangyu said the Chinese military was expected to use a new airport on the reef to perform test flights. Xu said the military will patrol the South China Sea using the airport, which will mainly serve civilian purposes, such as rescue work and transport of goods.
In late December 2015, Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun said that the military was building a second aircraft carrier, which will be a 50,000-ton ship capable of holding the military’s J-15 fighter jets. The first aircraft carrier was commissioned from a former Russian vessel in 2012.