World Philippines keeping 'options open' on South China Sea: govt
Explained: Beijing's 'maritime militia' dominating the South China Sea
They've been dubbed China's "Little Blue Men," an allegedly Beijing-controlled maritime militia that analysts say could be hundreds of boats and thousands of crew members strong. © National Task Force-West Philippine Sea/AP In this photo provided by the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, Chinese vessels are moored at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea on March 27, 2021. China doesn't acknowledge their existence and when questioned, refers to them as a "so-called maritime militia.
The Philippine defence department said Thursday it was keeping "all our options open" as a diplomatic row with Beijing grows over hundreds of Chinese vessels in the contested South China Sea.
Tensions over the resource-rich waters have spiked in recent weeks after more than 200 Chinese boats were detected at Whitsun Reef, in the Spratly Islands, where China and the Philippines have rival claims.
‘Untapped weapon’: Philippine leaders warn China by touting defense treaty with US
A standoff involving a fleet of Chinese maritime militia ships in disputed waters has raised the prospect of Philippine officials invoking a defense treaty with the United States, according to defense officials and lawmakers. © Provided by Washington Examiner “Both parties are committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Philippine Department of National Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Thursday.
China, which claims almost the entirety of the sea, has refused repeated appeals by the Philippines to withdraw the vessels, which Manila says unlawfully entered its exclusive economic zone.
While President Rodrigo Duterte has appeared reluctant to confront China on the issue, one of his top aides warned Monday the boats could ignite "unwanted hostilities".
"As the situation (in the South China Sea) evolves, we keep all our options open in managing the situation, including leveraging our partnerships with other nations such as the United States," Philippine defence department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Thursday.
Andolong's comments came after the United States reminded China of Washington's treaty obligations to the Philippines in the event of an attack in the waters.
China Tests Biden With South China Sea Tactic That Misled Obama
Based on the official view from Beijing, the Philippines has no reason to worry about Chinese fishing boats sitting along a disputed reef in the South China Sea. The vessels -- initially numbering in the hundreds -- were simply “taking shelter from the wind” and the Philippines should view the situation in a “rational light,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on March 22 when the news first broke.Two weeks later, more than 40 boats are still at Whitsun Reef and the statements are getting more and more terse.
"An armed attack against the Philippines' armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Wednesday.
"We share the concerns of our Philippine allies regarding the continued reported massing of PRC maritime militia near the Whitsun Reef," Price said, referring to the People's Republic of China.
Many of the boats detected at Whitsun Reef on March 7 have since scattered across the Spratly archipelago, which is also claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Beijing often invokes the so-called nine-dash line to justify its apparent historic rights over most of the South China Sea, and it has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared this assertion to be without basis.
Duterte, elected in 2016, put the sea dispute on the back burner as he sought closer economic ties with the Philippines' superpower neighbour and strike a course independent of its former colonial master the United States.
Philippines Says China ‘Militia’ Spreads to Other Disputed Reefs .
The Philippines said Chinese “maritime militia” vessels have expanded into more disputed South China Sea areas, even after the Southeast Asian nation protested and the U.S. aired concerns over the ships’ presence. © Photographer: TED ALJIBE/AFP A research boat (L) and Filipino fishing boat (back R) anchored near Thitu island in the disputed Spratly islands. 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.