Philippines summons Chinese ambassador in coral reef conflict

Manila, Philippines (AP) —The Philippine government has summoned a Chinese ambassador, demanding that Chinese vessels leave the reefs claimed by Manila in the South China Sea immediately, saying their presence is causing tension.

The intensifying conflict between Manila and Beijing began earlier last month after the discovery of more than 200 Chinese vessels suspected of being operated by militia by Filipino authorities at Whitson Reef. The Philippine government demanded that vessels depart and deployed Coast Guard and patrol vessels in the area, but said China owns coral reefs and Chinese vessels are evacuating from rough seas.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Ambassador Huangxi on Monday, after which Philippine Foreign Minister Elizabeth Buenscheso expressed dissatisfaction with Manila’s “dissatisfaction with the illegal and protracted existence of Chinese ships around Julian Felipe Reef.” The hottest controversial Spratlys region of the busy waterways.

“The continued presence of Chinese vessels around coral reefs is a source of tension in the region,” said Buenscheso.

She said the coral reef, about 175 nautical miles (324 km) west of Palawan, Philippines, is within an internationally recognized offshore zone where Manila has the exclusive right to use fisheries, oil, gas and other resources. I repeated something yellow.

She also cites a 2016 decision in an international arbitration case filed against China by the Philippines, which invalidates the vast claims of Beijing’s historical grounds against virtually all South China Seas under the 1982 United Nations Maritime Treaty. did.

Filipino troops said aerial surveillance showed that some Chinese vessels had left the reefs, but more than 40 were still moored in the area in late March. It uncovered China’s claim that the ship had evacuated from the rough seas and said the weather around the reefs was sunny.

The United States said it would support the Philippines in the standoffs. Manila’s defense ministry said last week that the Philippines could seek the help of the United States, which has a mutual defense treaty, to protect its interests in the South China Sea.

After President Rodrigo Duterte took office in mid-2016, there was a protest over Whitsan in the Philippines that attracted attention to China as it fostered a cozy relationship with China. Duterte has been repeatedly criticized for not immediately demanding China’s compliance with the 2016 arbitration award and for taking a stronger position on China’s actions in conflict areas.

The islands, islets and atolls of the Spratly Islands are claimed entirely or partially by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. China has recently transformed seven disputed coral reefs into missile-protected island bases, increasing tensions on what has long been feared as a potential flash point in Asia.