PH welcomes US ships in disputed sea

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The Philippines on Tuesday welcomed Washington’s plan to send ships near China’s man-made but disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), noting that it is within the concept of international law.

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In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it is the “paramount concern” of all nations “to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.”

“If the US decides to send naval vessels within 12 nautical miles of the reclaimed low-tide elevation features in affirmation of this objective, this would be consistent with international law and a rules-based order for the region,” the department added.

Sources at the US Defense department last week revealed that Washington is likely to send at least one ship to the disputed areas where China has built lighthouses and airstrips for military and civilian use.

This move, sources said, was to defy Beijing’s claim in a region where $5 trillion worth of trade passes by annually.

China has built military structures on two reefs–Fiery Cross and Johnson South. These reefs are being claimed in part by the Philippines.

Manila has wholeheartedly accepted Washington’s plan to send ships to the region as it depends also on a decades-old treaty–the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty–between the Philippines and the United States for military “back-up” in case disputes with China end in armed conflict.

“Failure to challenge false claims of sovereignty would undermine this order and lead China to the false conclusion that its claims are accepted as a fait accompli,” the DFA statement said.

A report of the US Defense department said China has reclaimed more land in the disputed sea in the past two years than other claimants combined in the past 40 years.

Beijing claims 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, including islands and waters near the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam.

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