Philippines, US defense chiefs to meet over sea dispute

The Philippines and US defense chiefs are to come together ascountries express increasing concern amid Beijing's reported massive island creation projects.

Philippines, US defense chiefs to meet over sea dispute

World Bulletin / News Desk

The defense chiefs of the Philippines and the United States are set to meet in Hawaii this week to discuss escalating tensions in disputed areas of the South China Sea – known as the West Philippine Sea on the archipelago.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters Monday that he would ask his U.S. counterpart Ashton Carter what assistance the U.S. could offer the Philippines amid China’s perceived “aggression” in the disputed waters.

China claims almost the whole of the resource-rich South China Sea, while several other Asian nations including Vietnam and the Philippines have also laid claim.

The U.S. and the Philippines have recently been expressing increasing concern amid Beijing's reported massive island creation projects atop previously submerged reefs.

“We’ll ask what they [the U.S.] could do to help us and how. Right now, we’ll see what assistance they can extend to keep us safe from harassment,” quoted him as saying in the local Tagalog dialect.

“We are concerned with what’s happening around the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Gazmin also said he would meet his Japanese counterpart in June when President Benigno Aquino III travels to Tokyo for an official visit.

China and Japan have conflicting claims to the Diaoyu Islands - known as Senkaku Islands in Japan – in the East China Sea. While the Senkakus are controlled by Tokyo, China and Taiwan each claim the territory as its own.

U.S. administration officials have warned that newly formed islands could be used to station naval ships and establish a potential air defense zone like one that Beijing unilaterally declared in 2013 in the East China Sea, and which includes the Senkakus.

Aquino said earlier Monday that Philippine aircraft would continue flying routes over the disputed territories.

"We will still fly to routes that we fly based on international law," Aquino told reporters in Marikina City, in Metro Manila, dismissing concerns of China targeting the aircraft.

Aquino stressed that it would damage China's reputation in the international community if the powerful nation were to engage in direct confrontation with a small country like the Philippines.

The South China Sea is a critical world trade route and a potential source of hydrocarbons, particularly natural gas, with competing claims of ownership over the sea and its resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA estimates the South China Sea contains approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 5.7 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in proved and probable reserves. Conventional hydrocarbons mostly reside in undisputed territory.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Mayıs 2015, 17:07