Beijing: Beijing escalated its war of words with the Philippines over the South China Sea on Friday, decrying Manila as "hypocritical" for criticising its land reclamation works in the area.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying`s denunciation came one day after the Philippine foreign secretary accused Beijing of "accelerating its expansionist agenda" and maintained that Manila would resume its own construction in the South China Sea.
"The Philippines criticised China`s normal construction on our own islands, but in the meantime it claims to resume its construction, such as airstrips on Chinese islands it has illegally occupied," Hua said at a regular briefing.
"This does not only violate China`s territorial sovereignty but also reveals (the Philippines`) hypocritical nature," she added.
Beijing insists it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the resource-rich sea, even areas approaching the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, based on a 1940s Chinese map with segmented dashes outlining its territory.
But the dashes, now nine in number, are in some places more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from the nearest major Chinese landmass and well within the exclusive economic zones of its neighbours.
The dispute -- with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claiming parts of the sea -- has for decades been a source of deep regional tension and occasional military conflict.
Tensions have escalated sharply in recent years as China has moved to increase its presence and assert its authority in the waters.
On Thursday, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said China was trying to undermine a United Nations tribunal that is due to rule early next year on a challenge by Manila to Beijing`s claims.
"China is accelerating its expansionist agenda and changing the status quo to actualise its nine-dash line claim and to control nearly the entire South China Sea before... the handing down of a decision of the arbitral tribunal on the Philippine submission," del Rosario said.
China maintains that it does not accept the UN`s arbitration of the dispute, which it insists should be handled directly between Beijing and Manila.
"We once again ask the Philippines to withdraw all personnel and facilities from its illegally occupied Chinese islands and stop all wrong words and actions that violate Chinese territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests," Hua said.