Philippines releases images of China building Secret Island in South Sea
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also stated that they did not want to anger China by highlighting the territorial row at the summit of regional leaders in Laos but the release of the photos came just a few hours before the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations met the Chinese Prime Minister
Vientiane: The Philippines, on Wednesday, released a number of photographs that claimed that China has secretly started working to cement control over a crucial Scarborough shoal in the South China Sea.
The images were released hours ahead of a meeting between Southeast Asian leaders and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Laos.
The Philippines had earlier this week alleged that China had begun construction of a secret island at the shoal but the allegations were refused by the Chinese government arguing that it has not launched any efforts which are against the interest of the South Asian nations.
The Scarborough shoal on the South China Sea has enormous strategic importance for Beijing's ambitions to control the sea and weaken US military influence in the region.
What Philippines government stated:
- The Philippines government officials said the images were, taken on last weekend, showed the Chinese ships at the shoal that were capable of dredging sand and other activities required to build an artificial island.
- Philippines defence department spokesman Arsenio Andolong stated, "We have reason to believe that their presence is a precursor to building activities on the shoal."
- "We are continuing our surveillance and monitoring of their presence and activities, which are disturbing," he added.
The South China Sea and dispute with China over illegal construction of Islands:
- China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters approaching the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.
- The China using deadly force twice to seize control of islands from Vietnam has created major tension in the region.
- Concerns have risen sharply in recent years as China has built artificial islands on reefs and islets in the Spratlys archipelago which is another strategically important location in the water.
- These artificial islands are capable of supporting military operations.
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Tension in Philippines government:
- The government officials of Philippines said that an artificial island at Scarborough Shoal would potentially give China a military base close to where US forces regularly operate on the Philippine main island of Luzon.
- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte also stated that they did not want to anger China by highlighting the territorial row at the summit of regional leaders in Laos but the release of the photos came just a few hours before the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations met the Chinese Prime Minister.