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China tells Philippine warship in Scarborough Shoal to 'leave Chinese territory'

MANILA, Philippines - China on Wednesday accused a Philippine warship of illegally entering Chinese waters and ordered it to immediately leave the area, escalating a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

The Chinese embassy in Manila released a statement reasserting the country's sovereign rights to the South China Sea, including the disputed area that is much closer to Philippine landmass.

The statement "urged the Philippine side to stop immediately their illegal activities and leave this area".

The Philippine government had earlier Wednesday said two Chinese surveillance vessels were blocking efforts by its biggest warship to arrest Chinese fishermen on eight boats caught fishing illegally in its waters.

The government said the standoff was occurring at Scarborough Shoal, 124 nautical miles from the western coast of the country's main island of Luzon.

China insists it has sovereign rights to all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coast of other countries and hundreds of kilometers from its own landmass.

The Philippines says it has sovereign rights over areas of the sea within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, and that its position is supported by international law.

China calls the shoal Huangyan Island, and the Chinese embassy statement insisted the area belonged solely to China.

"The Chinese Embassy hereby reiterates that Huangyan Island is an integral part of the Chinese territory and the waters around it is the traditional fishing area for the Chinese fishermen," the statement said.

"Ever since the ancient times, numerous documents on the Chinese history have put down definitely in writing that Huangyan Island belongs to Chinese territory."

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