16:30 GMT07 August 2020
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    The Asia-Pacific region has several territorial disputes in the South China and East China Seas that involve Brunei, China, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed concerns on Friday about China ramping up activity in the disputed South China Sea while the region is busy struggling with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

    "Even as our region struggles to contain COVID-19, alarming incidents in the South China Sea occurred", Duterte said at an online meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders. "We call on parties to refrain from escalating tensions and abide by responsibilities under international law."

    Earlier in April, China announced the creation of two districts in the South China Sea under the jurisdiction of China’s Sansha city in Hainan province. These districts include the Spratly island group in the West Philippine Sea and the Paracel island group near Vietnam. 

    According to Manila, Beijing has unlawfully incorporated Philippine territory and maritime zones under its jurisdiction.

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