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Pictures | Fri Apr 21, 2017 | 8:24pm EDT

Disputed islands of the South China Sea

An aerial view of China-occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea. In the last two years, Subi Reef has transformed from a single building and cranes on an artificial sand bank to what looks look a forward operating base with its own town. China insists these islands are for defensive purposes and objects strongly to planes or boats that come near them.

REUTERS/Francis Malasig/Pool

An aerial view of China-occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea. In the last two years, Subi Reef has transformed from a single building and cranes on an artificial sand bank to what looks look a forward operating base...more

An aerial view of China-occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea. In the last two years, Subi Reef has transformed from a single building and cranes on an artificial sand bank to what looks look a forward operating base with its own town. China insists these islands are for defensive purposes and objects strongly to planes or boats that come near them. REUTERS/Francis Malasig/Pool
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Chinese structures are pictured at the disputed Spratlys in South China Sea. Subi symbolizes China's increasingly assertive claim to most of the South China Sea, a claim it reinforces in building manmade islands in the Spratly archipelago from dredged sand and equipping them with runways, hangars and surface-to-air-missiles.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Chinese structures are pictured at the disputed Spratlys in South China Sea. Subi symbolizes China's increasingly assertive claim to most of the South China Sea, a claim it reinforces in building manmade islands in the Spratly archipelago from...more

Chinese structures are pictured at the disputed Spratlys in South China Sea. Subi symbolizes China's increasingly assertive claim to most of the South China Sea, a claim it reinforces in building manmade islands in the Spratly archipelago from dredged sand and equipping them with runways, hangars and surface-to-air-missiles. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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A view of Philippine occupied (Pagasa) Thitu island in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. At only 37 hectares (0.37 sq km) the coral-fringed Thitu, known to Filipinos as Pagasa, is the biggest of the eight reefs, shoals and islands the Philippines occupies in the Spratly archipelago, 280 miles away from the mainland.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A view of Philippine occupied (Pagasa) Thitu island in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. At only 37 hectares (0.37 sq km) the coral-fringed Thitu, known to Filipinos as Pagasa, is the biggest of the eight reefs, shoals and islands the...more

A view of Philippine occupied (Pagasa) Thitu island in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. At only 37 hectares (0.37 sq km) the coral-fringed Thitu, known to Filipinos as Pagasa, is the biggest of the eight reefs, shoals and islands the Philippines occupies in the Spratly archipelago, 280 miles away from the mainland. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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A Filipino soldier looks out from a boat in Philippine occupied Thitu island, April 21, 2017. For the 37 Filipino families who call Thitu their home, however, life is basic with just a few buildings, no television or internet, and no shops or street-side eateries. There isn't even a street, just a dirt track used by the island's one vehicle - a small truck.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A Filipino soldier looks out from a boat in Philippine occupied Thitu island, April 21, 2017. For the 37 Filipino families who call Thitu their home, however, life is basic with just a few buildings, no television or internet, and no shops or...more

A Filipino soldier looks out from a boat in Philippine occupied Thitu island, April 21, 2017. For the 37 Filipino families who call Thitu their home, however, life is basic with just a few buildings, no television or internet, and no shops or street-side eateries. There isn't even a street, just a dirt track used by the island's one vehicle - a small truck. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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Filipinos living in Philippine occupied (Pagasa) Thitu island, in disputed South China Sea, sing the country's national anthem April 21, 2017. Thitu's inhabitants have a strategic purpose - preserving a Philippine claim of sovereignty in the face of a resurgent China.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Filipinos living in Philippine occupied (Pagasa) Thitu island, in disputed South China Sea, sing the country's national anthem April 21, 2017. Thitu's inhabitants have a strategic purpose - preserving a Philippine claim of sovereignty in the face of...more

Filipinos living in Philippine occupied (Pagasa) Thitu island, in disputed South China Sea, sing the country's national anthem April 21, 2017. Thitu's inhabitants have a strategic purpose - preserving a Philippine claim of sovereignty in the face of a resurgent China. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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An aerial view of Southwest Cay, also known as Pugad Island, controlled by Vietnam and part of the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia also have communities in the Spratlys.

REUTERS/Francis Malasig/Pool

An aerial view of Southwest Cay, also known as Pugad Island, controlled by Vietnam and part of the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia also have communities in the Spratlys. REUTERS/Francis...more

An aerial view of Southwest Cay, also known as Pugad Island, controlled by Vietnam and part of the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia also have communities in the Spratlys. REUTERS/Francis Malasig/Pool
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Chinese vessels are pictured in disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Chinese vessels are pictured in disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Chinese vessels are pictured in disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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People walk towards a parked Philippine Air Force plane in Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. Defense minister Delfin Lorenzana visited Thitu with journalists aboard a C-130 plane to inspect sites earmarked for 1.6 billion pesos ($32.1 million) of development, including a small fishing port, a beaching ramp, desalination facilities, and runway repairs.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

People walk towards a parked Philippine Air Force plane in Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. Defense minister Delfin Lorenzana visited Thitu with journalists aboard a C-130 plane...more

People walk towards a parked Philippine Air Force plane in Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. Defense minister Delfin Lorenzana visited Thitu with journalists aboard a C-130 plane to inspect sites earmarked for 1.6 billion pesos ($32.1 million) of development, including a small fishing port, a beaching ramp, desalination facilities, and runway repairs. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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An assault weapon is pictured while a Filipino soldier eats a meal in Philippine occupied Thitu Island on Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

An assault weapon is pictured while a Filipino soldier eats a meal in Philippine occupied Thitu Island on Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

An assault weapon is pictured while a Filipino soldier eats a meal in Philippine occupied Thitu Island on Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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Filipino soldiers stand at attention near a Philippine flag at Thitu island in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Filipino soldiers stand at attention near a Philippine flag at Thitu island in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Filipino soldiers stand at attention near a Philippine flag at Thitu island in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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A view of buildings in Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A view of buildings in Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A view of buildings in Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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Chinese structures are pictured in Subi Reef at disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Chinese structures are pictured in Subi Reef at disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Chinese structures are pictured in Subi Reef at disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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An aerial view of uninhabited island in the Spratlys in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

An aerial view of uninhabited island in the Spratlys in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

An aerial view of uninhabited island in the Spratlys in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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