MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine Defense Department on Thursday ordered its military to step up its forces in the South China Sea after monitoring “Chinese activity” in disputed waters near a strategic Philippine-held island.
The ministry did not specify what those activities were, and its statement follows this week’s report on China’s construction on four uninhabited islands in the disputed Spratly Islands, which the Chinese government said He dismissed it as “unfounded.”
The encroachment or reclamation of functions within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone “is a threat to the security of Pagasa Island, which is part of the sovereign territory of the Philippines,” the statement, using the Filipino name of Titu Island. said in .
We strongly urge China to maintain the current rules-based international order and refrain from actions that exacerbate tensions.”
The Chinese embassy in Manila reiterated that China will adhere to consensus reached among its advocates, including not developing uninhabited reefs or islands.
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When asked for a response to the defense ministry’s statement, the two sides said they would “appropriately handle maritime issues through amicable consultations.”
China claims much of the South China Sea, through which billions of dollars worth of goods pass each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also make overlapping claims to various islands and features.
Titu is the most strategically important of the nine islands that the Philippines occupies in the Spratly Islands and is located near Subi Reef. Subi Reef is one of her seven artificial islands built by China on underwater reefs, some with surface-to-air missiles, aircraft hangars and airstrips.
(Reporting by Karen Lemma; Editing by Martin Petty)
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