Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr. told The Associated Press that China protested a Philippine plan to explore for oil and gas in the area in July. It is the closest point in waters off the main Philippine islands that China has claimed in the increasingly tense territorial disputes.
Beijing has been asserting its territorial claims more aggressively as its economic and diplomatic muscle has grown. Its new claims are likely to bolster Philippine resolve to seek a U.N. ruling on the long-simmering disputes, which involve China, the Philippines and four other claimants.
Among the areas being contested is the Spratlys, a chain of up to 190 islands, reefs, coral outcrops and banks believed to be sitting atop large deposits of oil and natural gas, which many fear could be Asia’s next flash point for conflict.
The issue is expected to be discussed Wednesday with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The two new areas being claimed by China are not part of the Spratlys, Layug said.
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