Asia

China, Philippines argue over defense chief's island visit

China has protested the visit by Manila's defense and military chiefs to a disputed island in the South China Sea, but the Philippine government maintains it owns the territory where Filipino troops and villagers have lived for decades.

The public argument comes amid a thaw in once-frosty relations between the neighbors after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office last June and moved to rekindle Manila's friendship with Beijing, which has been strained by the long-seething territorial disputes.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano flew to Pag-asa Island with dozens of journalists Friday to inspect an eroded airstrip, which the government plans to reinforce and lengthen. They also met Filipino troops and villagers and took part in a flag-raising ceremony.