U.S., Philippine Defense Secretaries Discuss South China Sea
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin spoke with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana on the phone to discuss the South China Sea situation, and the recent massing of China’s maritime militia vessels at Whitsun Reef, according to a statement.|
Austin proposed several measures to deepen defense cooperation between the the two countries, including “enhancing situational awareness of threats in the South China Sea,” according to an official U.S. readout of the call. Both officials pledged to stay in close contact.
The phone call comes after reports that armed Chinese navy ships chased down a civilian craft carrying a Filipino news crew last week, which has prompted an investigation. China has described the vessels as “normal and legitimate” and that its government maintains close communications with the Philippines.
Local broadcaster ABS-CBN said the People’s Liberation Army Navy deployed two vessels carrying missiles to drive away the ship as it traveled across reefs and shoals close to the western Philippine island province of Palawan. The report added it was the first recorded instance of a military maneuver against a civilian boat.
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