U.S. Filipino officials discuss concerns about Chinese vessels




On a U.S. military plane — Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin discussed on Saturday the position of China’s recent “militia ship”, the Philippine counterpart near the Philippines in the South China Sea. Austin spoke with Philippine Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana on the phone while Austin was flying from Washington to Israel to embark on an international trip. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Austin and Lorenzana had discussed the situation in the South China Sea and the recent rally of Chinese ships on Whitson Reef, which has been criticized by Manila. Kirby said on the phone that Austin had proposed to Lorenzana several steps to deepen defense cooperation, including “strengthening situational awareness of the South China Sea threat.” He didn’t elaborate. Kirby said last week that the USS Theodore Roosevelt and its carrier strike group, as well as the landing ship USS Makin Island, are operating in the South China Sea. …

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