MANILA, Philippines – The Embassy of Japan in Manila on Tuesday (March 23) reacted to the current situation in the South China Sea (SCS) following a statement from the United States expressing its concern over the presence of some 200 Chinese vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In a statement on Twitter, Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko said the matter is ‘directly related to peace and stability’ and therefore ‘a concern for all’ in the region.
“The South China Sea issues are directly related to peace and stability and a concern for all. Japan strongly opposes any action that heightens tensions,” Kazuhiko said.
“We support the enforcement of rule of law in the sea and work with the international community to protect the free, open, and peaceful seas,” he added.
On Monday (March 22), the Department of National Defense (DND) through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed that about 200 vessels, believed to be Chinese militia, have been sighted at Julian Felipe Reef.
In response, the Chinese Embassy in Manila clarified in a statement that the vessels were actually fishing vessels taking shelter from rough seas. It also insisted that the area in question is part of China.
As the country’s defense ally, the United States said it stands with the Philippines as it expressed concern about the gathering of China’s maritime vessels near Julian Felipe Reef or Whitsun Reef.
In a follow up statement, the Embassy said “the United States is not a party to the South China Sea issue” and what it does is “fanning flames and provoking confrontation in the region will only serve the selfish interests of individual countries and undermine the regional peace and stability.”
The Julian Felipe Reef is a large shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs or Union Reefs. It is located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.