16:00 GMT21 January 2021
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    Increased US patrols in the South China Sea have only strengthened Beijing’s resolve to ramp up its defenses, including building more military infrastructure, the nation’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

    BEIJING (Sputnik) US-China tensions escalated on Tuesday after a US guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles from a China-controlled reef in the South China Sea, prompting Beijing to scramble fighter jets.

    The Ministry of National Defense said in a statement that, "the patrol only further justified China's construction of defense facilities in the area."

    It said the standoff "proved that China's construction of defense facilities on… islands and reefs in the Nansha Islands is totally justified and very necessary." China already has a 10,000-foot runway on the reef.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Tuesday that the USS William P. Lawrence entered Chinese waters close to Fiery Cross Reef near the Spratly Islands illegally. The reef, called Yongshu in China, is also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.


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