South China Sea: Canada expresses support for Philippines
According to reports, hundreds of Chinese vessels manned by militias in the disputed area have spread inside the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone in Whitsun Reef. Manila has described the move as “swarming and threatening”.
The Philippines’ task force in the disputed region expressed “deep concern over the continuing unlawful presence (swarming) of the Chinese maritime militia”.
In a statement, they said: “Neither the Philippines nor the international community will ever accept China’s assertion of its so-called ‘indisputable integrated sovereignty’ over almost all of the South China Sea.”
According to intelligence from its own patrols, the task force claimed 44 vessels were still in the Whitsun Reef.
Around 200 others were spread out around other parts of the Spratly Islands near China’s manmade military bases where four navy boats were seen.
South China Sea crisis as tensions rise between China and Philippines
Philippines claim China sends vessels into Whitsun Reef
Beijing has denied the boats were manned by militia and said the vessels were sheltering from rough seas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington stands by its ally amid growing tensions with Beijing and China’s maritime presence at Whitsun Reef.
The South China Sea is a highly contested region and faces claims from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Diplomatic relations between the nations are already extremely strained.
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Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte
Over recent months, Beijing has asserted its dominance in the region and has built several military bases on some of the atolls.
Despite not having a claim to any part of the archipelago, Washington has increased its military presence in order to counter China’s dominance in the region.
Tensions in the South China Sea have escalated over recent months following the increased military presence from both Beijing and the US.
Back in January, concerns were raised after Taiwan reported 15 Chinese aircraft had entered its air defence identification zone (ADIZ).
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A total of 15 Chinese aircraft including 12 fighter jets entered into the southern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Island in the South China Sea.
This marked the second day in a row Beijing aircraft has entered the region.
Beijing has been conducting military exercises near Pratas Island over recent months.
At least eight Chinese bomber planes and four fighter jets entered Taiwan’s ADIZ urging the nation to deploy missiles to “monitor” the incursion.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has conducted flights over the waters almost daily in recent months.
However, they have generally been just one or two reconnaissance aircraft.
Following Beijing’s recent activity, the US State Department urged China to stop pressuring Taiwan.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, said: “We urged Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives.
“We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defence capability.”
Canada, Australia and Japan have all voiced concerns about China’s dominance in the region.