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Tags: AS | Southeast Asia | South China Sea

Philippines Shows Photos of Chinese Ships in Disputed Sea

Philippines Shows Photos of Chinese Ships in Disputed Sea

Wednesday, 07 September 2016 03:01 AM

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — The Philippine government on Wednesday released what it says are surveillance pictures of Chinese coast guard ships and barges at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, in an apparent diplomatic gambit to publicize its concerns at a regional summit being attended by China's premier and Southeast Asian leaders.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plans to ask Premier Li Keqiang at the summit in the Laotian capital whether the vessels were on another island-making mission on the Scarborough Shoal. China has built many such islands in the disputed, resource-rich sea, much to the alarm of governments in the region.

If the Chinese government confirms the suspicion, the Philippines would lodge an official protest, according to Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. China has not commented on the accusations.

Duterte has taken a more reconciliatory track to rebuild relations with the Asian economic powerhouse and has said he would not raise the long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea in an adversarial manner that might upset the Chinese government.

Relations were severely strained under Duterte's predecessor because of the conflict.

However, he expressed alarm after a Philippine surveillance plane recently spotted four Chinese coast guard ships, four suspected barges, including one equipped with what appeared to be a crane, and two people-carrying ferries at the Scarborough Shoal off his country's northwestern coast.

Duterte's government released surveillance photos of the Chinese ships and barges along with a diagram showing the vessels' exact locations at the Scarborough Shoal, which the Chinese coast guard seized after a tense standoff with Philippine vessels in 2012.

Hours after the Philippines released the pictures, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, met with Li and his aides. The meeting was held behind closed doors and it is not immediately known if the South China Sea dispute was raised.

The U.S. military has also expressed concerns over the possibility that China might turn Scarborough into another island, something that would give Beijing's forces control over a swathe of the South China Sea used as a passageway to the Taiwan Strait.

China claims the entire South China Sea as its own, citing historical reasons. It has rejected a July 12 international arbitration ruling that called its claims illegal. The tribunal ruling also rebuked China for its land reclamation activities in the resource-rich sea, where it has conflicting claims with Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei besides the Philippines.

All of the countries are members of the 10-nation ASEAN, which treads a delicate path with the emerging superpower. They benefit greatly from its powerful economy - China is now the biggest source of tourists to the region - but its growing might also poses challenges.

The issue of ownership of the South China Sea has come to dominate the annual ASEAN summit and the separate ASEAN-China summit in recent years. On Wednesday, the leaders of AESEAN and Li cut a cake before the beginning of the summit to celebrate 25 years of relations.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Asia
The Philippine government on Wednesday released what it says are surveillance pictures of Chinese coast guard ships and barges at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, in an apparent diplomatic gambit to publicize its concerns at a regional summit being attended by...
AS,Southeast Asia,South China Sea
495
2016-01-07
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 03:01 AM
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