Over the South China Sea, dispute simmers by way of radios and rhetoric

Over the South China Sea, dispute simmers by way of radios and rhetoric

Over the South China Sea, dispute simmers by way of radios and rhetoric

By Eloisa Lopez

ABOARD PHILIPPINES COAST GUARD PLANE, South China Sea (Reuters) – As a Philippine coast guard plane flew over the disputed Spratly islands within the South China Sea on Thursday, a message got here in over the radio telling it to instantly go away “Chinese language territory”.

Such warnings, from a Chinese language coast guard ship, have turn into an virtually day by day ritual round one of many world’s most contested archipelagos, the place China is considered one of 5 nations claiming the strategic islands – or at the least a few of them – as their very own.

“Calling China coast guard vessel. You might be transiting inside Philippine territorial sea,” the Philippine pilot radios again.

“Request determine your self and state your intention to stop misunderstanding,” he stated.

China claims sovereignty over virtually all the South China Sea and has for years completely deployed tons of of coast guard and fishing vessels in disputed areas just like the Spratlys, the place it has dredged sand to construct islands on reefs, and geared up them with missiles and runways.

Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan even have claims within the Spratlys. The Philippines occupies 9 options there, and has accused China of aggression and “swarming” by fishing vessels that it says are militia, together with close to the tiny Thitu island occupied by Manila for the reason that Nineteen Seventies.

A Reuters journalist joined the Philippine flight on Thursday and noticed a few of these Chinese language boats dotted within the waters round Thitu, an island of 400 individuals. The Philippines final week accused the vessels, together with a navy ship, of “slowly loitering”.

China’s embassy in Manila didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark, however Beijing insists its coast guard is defending its territory.

The fly-by got here amid repeated complaints by the federal government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr towards China’s actions, together with its use of a laser that Manila stated briefly blinded crew members of a coast guard vessel final month.

The Philippines below Marcos has stepped up its rhetoric to problem China and is looking for nearer ties with former colonial energy and defence ally the US, together with plans to carry joint sea patrols.

The airplane flew over one other sizzling spot for China-Philippines tensions – the Second Thomas Shoal – the place the army grade laser was final month used to focus on a coast guard crew supporting a army resupply mission.

The Philippines has lengthy maintained a small contingent of army aboard a rusty former U.S. navy ship that it ran aground on a reef there to protect Manila’s territorial declare.

China’s coast guard challenged the airplane once more because it flew over the shoal, situated contained in the Philippines 200-mile unique financial zone.

“That is the Philippine Coast Guard,” the pilot responded.

“We’re conducting a routine maritime patrol inside our nationwide airspace, and monitoring the protection of our fishermen,” it stated.

(Writing by Karen Lema; Modifying by Martin Petty, Ed Davies)

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