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Philippines says South China Sea dispute a global problem

President Benigno Aquino reads his speech through a teleprompter during a graduation ceremony of police cadets at the Philippine National Police academy in Silang, Cavite south of Manila March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino said on Friday the territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea was of concern for the world because global trade will be hit by China’s reclamation.

Recent satellite images show China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested territory in the Spratly Islands and may be planning another, moves that have been greeted with concern in the United States and Asia.

IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly said March 23 images from Airbus Defence and Space showed work on the runway on reclaimed parts of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly archipelago, which China contests with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

“We keep asserting the problem in the South China Sea is not a regional problem,” Aquino told journalists. “This is a problem of the whole world because 40 percent of global trade pass through these waters. Global leaders have already expressed their concern on this problem.”

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and denies accusations its actions in its own territory are provocative.

On Wednesday, G7 foreign ministers issued a statement on maritime security, expressing concern on unilateral actions in the South China Sea, including “large scale reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions”.

American and Filipino troops will take part in the largest-ever drills in 15 years next week, a key component of America’s rebalance to Asia policy.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie