China military says aware of U.S. carrier in South China Sea

UNTV News   •   February 23, 2017   •   2893

Sailors man the rails as the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier departs on deployment from Naval Station North Island in Coronado, California, U.S. January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

China’s defense ministry said on Thursday it was aware of the presence of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group in the South China Sea and China respected freedom of navigation for all countries in the waters there.

The U.S. navy said the strike group, including the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson, began “routine operations” in the South China Sea on Saturday amid growing tension with China over control of the disputed waterway.

Defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said China had a “grasp” of the situation regarding the carrier group in the South China Sea.

“China hopes the U.S. earnestly respects the sovereignty and security concerns of countries in the region, and earnestly respects the efforts of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Ren told a regular monthly news briefing.

“Of course, we also respect freedom of navigation and overflight for all countries in the South China Sea in accordance with international law,” he added.

The situation in the South China Sea was generally stable, Ren said.

“We hope the actions of the U.S. side can contribute positive energy towards this good situation, and not the opposite.”

Good military relations between the two countries are in interests of both, and well as of the region and the world, and China hoped the United States could meet China half way, strengthen communication and avoid misjudgment, Ren said.

Friction between the United States and China over trade and territory under U.S. President Donald Trump have increased concern that the South China Sea could become a flashpoint.

China wrapped up its own naval exercises in the South China Sea late last week. War games involving its only aircraft carrier have unnerved neighbors with which it has long had rival claims in the waters.

China lays claim to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the waters that have rich fishing grounds, along with oil and gas deposits.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free of movement.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

PH, US defense chiefs tackle West Philippine Sea situation, regional security issues

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III on Sunday (April 11) discussed the situation in the West Philippine Sea and some measures to deepen the defense cooperation of two countries amid recent tensions in the contested waters.

In a statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the defense chiefs of the two nations held a telephone conference to talk about the situation in the West Philippine Sea and recent developments in regional security.

DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong earlier said that the Philippines is “keeping all options open” but said they are closely coordinating with the United States government on the matter.

Andolong also said that both parties are “committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty so that neither stands alone in these issues involving the two states’ inherent right of self-defense, individually and collectively.”

The United States and the Philippines signed the mutual defense treaty in 1951.

In a separate statement, Austin said he spoke with his counterpart to reaffirm their commitment to the alliance between the US and the Philippines.

“I had a productive call with SND @del_lorenzana to discuss challenges in the South China Sea and the need for unity in ensuring security and stability in the region. #FreeandopenIndoPacific,” he said.

The DND said both defense chiefs “are looking forward to the conduct of Exercise Balikatan, which was canceled last year.”

Austin also reiterated the importance of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two nations and “hopes that it would be continued.”

“Secretary Lorenzana committed to discuss the matter with the President as the final approval lies with him,” the DND said.

Also during the phone conversation, Lorenzana sought Austin’s assistance to speed up the delivery of Moderna-developed COVID-19 vaccine doses that were procured by the Philippine government.

“To which, Secretary Austin replied that he would look into the issue and bring it to the attention of the office concerned,” the DND said.

PH, US discuss concerns over Chinese presence in WPS, anti-Asian violence

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in a phone call, discussed their concerns over the presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, the US State Department said Friday.

“Substantive conversation today with my Philippine counterpart, @teddyboylocsin, discussing our concerns with People’s Republic of China militia vessels in the South China Sea and our efforts to combat anti-Asian hate and violence. #FriendsPartnersAllies,” Blinken said on Twitter.

The phone conversation between Locsin and Blinken follows reports on alleged Chinese “militia boats” scattered within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a separate statement, US State Department Ned Price said that Blinken also reaffirmed the applicability of the 1951 US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty to the South China Sea.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. Both expressed their shared concerns with the massing of PRC maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea, including at Whitsin Reef, and reiterated their calls on the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to abide by the 2016 arbitration ruling issued pursuant to the Law of the Sea Convention,” Price said.

Price was referring to the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in favor of the Philippines and nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, including parts that are within the Philippines EEZ.

Beijing has ignored the 2016 international tribunal decision.

Apart from the Philippines and China, other countries competing for territorial claims in the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Aside from the renewed tensions in the West Philippine Sea, Locsin said they also tackled the string of anti-Asian hate and violence in the United States.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Romualdez earlier said that Washington has been taking steps to curb the anti-Asian attacks, including the setting up of hotlines and the deployment of more law enforces in areas with a large population of Asian Americans. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

PH Military to probe alleged China harassment of TV crew in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been ordered to conduct an investigation into the alleged harassment of Chinese vessels on a Filipino television crew in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Friday.

In a statement, DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the AFP will gather and validate all information relating to the incident.

“The Defense Department has directed the AFP through its Western Command to investigate, gather, and validate all the relevant facts on the incident,” he said.

Andolong said the outcome of the investigation will be used to coordinate any appropriate action through the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, as well as engagement among the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, and other concerned agencies.

“We are concerned for the safety of anyone — unarmed civilians — at sea. As such, we view the report with concern,” he said.

In a separate statement, the AFP has expressed concern over the reported harassment of Chinese PLA Navy Vessels and a Chinese Coast Guard on another vessel carrying a television crew.

The media team was reportedly chased by Chinese boats while on its way to Ayungin Shoal, about 105 nautical miles from Palawan. The area is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

AFP Spokesperson Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo said the Western Mindanao Command is looking into the incident to establish what really transpired.

“We have made representations with the news reporter to provide us raw footage or photographs they have of the incident to help us establish the circumstances and document the incident,” Arevalo said.

He, likewise, appealed to journalists to “exercise prudence in the course of their job.”

“We have accommodated members of media in our ships and aircraft to do their coverage so they can be protected while in the practice of their profession,” Arevalo said.

He added, “The AFP is concerned with the safety and well-being of our Kababayans that we have been forthright and transparent in our reporting about the situation in our EEZ.”

“Amidst the situation, the AFP reiterates its commitment to follow the dictates of the Constitution to protect the people and secure our sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he said.

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