The Philippines has said that it will lodge a diplomatic protest complaint China after Manila questioned if Beijing had gone back on its promise not to militarise a disputed reef in the South China Sea reports AFP.
Beijing has claimed almost all of the sea and has reclaimed reefs in the Spratly and Paracel chains into proper islands, and has installed military equipment and facilities on them.
Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana today (9 January) said that Manila was investigating reports of Chinese activity recently taking place on the Fiery Cross Reef, an large outcrop that the communist nation has converted into an artificial island, complete with a military base.
Lorenzana spoke out despite President Rodrigo Duterte's recent attempts to reduce tensions with China.
According to them they are not militarising (the reefs) and it was for peaceful purposes only like tourism. But if it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers and any weapons, defensive (or) otherwise, that would be a violation of what they said.Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana
Lorenzana added that he had received reports that Philippine fishermen were being "harassed" by Chinese coastguards.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang responded by claiming that China was conducting peaceful construction in its own territory and added that Beijing needed to build the necessary territorial defence equipment.
It’s not targeted at any country. I need to point out that China and the Philippines are friendly, neighbours.Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang
Last month, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) – a United States-based think tank – had released new satellite imagery that showed deployment of radar and other equipment across disputed islands in the South China Sea. The buildup continued despite claims over the islands from Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan.
Throughout 2017, China installed the necessary infrastructure to support air and naval bases, such as a large radar and sensor arrays.
Fiery Cross Reef saw the highest construction activity last year, with 27 acres, or about 110,000 square metres worth of building work.
The Philippines had earlier been among the most outspoken countries, standing up to China's claims over nearly the entire South China Sea that culminated in Manila filing a complaint to a United Nations-backed tribunal. The tribunal in 2016 had ruled that China's claims in the sea had no legal basis.
However Duterte, who took office in the months following the ruling, said that it would not use it to put pressure on China but instead build closer ties in return for billions in investment and aid.
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