Philippines Says China ‘Militia’ Spreads to Other Disputed Reefs
More than 250 Chinese vessels were seen in areas including Whitsun Reef and Thitu Island, as well as an island group known in the Philippines as Kalayaan, a government task force said Wednesday, citing air and sea patrols on March 29. It added that four Chinese Navy ships were also spotted at Mischief Reef, also known as Panganiban Reef.
The Chinese ships’ presence in the contested waters comes despite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s efforts to build closer ties with Beijing, while keeping good relations with the U.S. China earlier said that its vessels near a disputed reef were sheltering from the wind.
The Philippines repeated its call for the Chinese vessels to immediately leave the disputed areas, saying their presence is “hazardous to navigation and safety of life at sea.”
“Their swarming also poses a threat to the peaceful exercise of sovereign rights of the Philippines in its exclusive economic zone,” the Southeast Asian nation said, adding that more Philippine Navy and coast guard ships have been deployed to patrol in the South China Sea.
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