Senior U.S. and Philippine officials discussed their concerns over ongoing Chinese activity in the disputed South China Sea during a call Wednesday, the White House said, adding that Chinese “militia” ships were exposed across the waters of the Philippines’ sovereignty.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan and National Security Adviser to the Philippines Hermogenes Esperon “The United States and the Philippines have agreed that the Philippines will continue to coordinate closely to address challenges in the South China Sea.” According to a White House statement.
“Sullivan stressed that the United States supports the rule of law with our Philippine allies and restores the applicability of the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Agreement in the South China Sea,” spokeswoman Emily Horn said in a statement blaming the National Security Council.
After the discussion report On wednesday The fleet of ships from China’s “maritime militia”, which was the subject of a diplomatic row with Beijing last week, is now scattered over a wider area within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
In a statement, Manila said they reiterated the sovereignty of the Philippines, and the sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the islands and the sea lanes around them, and expressed deep concern about the “continued illegal presence (waterlogged) of ships” in the area.
“The Philippines has called on China to withdraw these flagship ships immediately.”
The statement added that ships in the region “build up and massage” are “dangerous for the safety of life on the sea”.
Last week, it was revealed that about 200 ships, believed to belong to the Chinese militia, were set up by the International Arbitration Court about 320 kilometers (175 nautical miles) west of Palawan Island over the Whitson Reef and inside the EEZ in the Philippines.
Manila had earlier called on Beijing to withdraw its ships from the region, also known as the Western Philippine Sea, to enter its sovereign territory.
China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, has claimed that the ships are fishing vessels sheltered from bad weather.
Manila insisted they came from Beijing’s naval militia, which is often accused of conducting covert military operations in the region.
Air and sea patrols in the Philippines recorded this week that 44 of the Chinese-flagged boats remained on boomerang-shaped rifts, with a military task force tasked with overseeing the disputed waters.
The statement said about 210 ships were now “watering” other recreation areas and islands in the region.
The Philippine military said it could not confirm whether 99 of the Chigua Reef and six of the Gavin Reef were part of the original flotilla.
Beijing often calls its so-called “non-dash line” to justify its claim over most of the South China Sea and ignores the decision of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Hague in 2001 that the claim had no verdict.
In recent years, China has transformed the reefs of the Spratly Islands into artificial islands, setting up naval and aviation facilities and equipment.
One of these is the Misfif Reef – which the Philippines also claims – where the task force said four naval ships were found while on patrol.
In a social media post on Thursday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Loxin also reiterated that any feature in the Philippine EEZ was “ours”, even Chinese structures. “The durability of the structure and the alcohol are not an issue,” he added.
The Philippine military said Wednesday that its plane also received a radio challenge from the Chinese military during a surveillance mission.
The Philippine media reported on the plane over the Whitson Reef that the plane had informed the Chinese that it was “approaching a Chinese reef” and that it should depart “to avoid any action that might cause a misunderstanding.”
The Philippine military responded that it was proceeding as scheduled, as it was conducting patrols within the “Philippine EEZ”.
Several countries, including the United States, have expressed concern about renewed tensions in the region. The US-Philippine Mutual Defense Agreement obliges both parties to support each other in the event of intrusion by external parties.
Canada, Australia, Japan and others have also expressed concern about China’s intentions.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, China and Vietnam have regional demand competition in the South China Sea, making it a major global trade route rich in natural resources.