South China Sea: US says Philippines removing Chinese barrier from Scarborough Shoal ‘a bold step’

The Philippines’ removal of a Chinese floating barrier near the Scarborough Shoal in a disputed part of the South China Sea was “a bold step in defending their own sovereignty,” a senior US defence official said on Thursday.
Manila had expressed outrage over China’s placement of a long, ball-buoy barrier near the rocky outcrop, some 200km (124 miles) from the Philippines. It has seen years of intermittent flare-ups over sovereignty and fishing rights.
The Philippines coastguard said on Monday it executed a “special operation” to remove the barrier, calling it a violation of international law and a hazard to navigation.

South China Sea: Philippines aims to ‘take control again’ of shoal from China

During a congressional hearing, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia Lindsey Ford commended the Philippines’ action and reaffirmed Washington’s security commitments to its Asian ally.

“The department has been incredibly clear that when it comes to our treaty commitments to the Philippines, we believe an armed attack against Philippine Armed Forces, public vessels, aircraft, apply to the South China Sea. That includes the Philippine coastguard,” Ford told a House of Representatives subcommittee on foreign affairs.

“We stand by those commitments absolutely,” she said.

The Chinese coastguard late on Wednesday disputed the Philippine version of the events, saying the Chinese side had retrieved the barrier last Saturday after deploying it a day earlier when a Philippine vessel “illegally” entered the area.


Philippine coastguard removes Chinese barrier at disputed Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea

Philippine coastguard removes Chinese barrier at disputed Scarborough Shoal in South China Sea

China’s foreign ministry has defended the actions of its coastguard as “necessary measures” after a Philippine bureau of fisheries vessel “intruded” into its waters last Friday.

The incident highlights the strained relations between China and the Philippines at a time when Manila is rapidly strengthening military ties with Washington.

Ford said the US was “thrilled” about the implementation of the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, a deal reached earlier this year between Manila and Washington that gives the US access to four more military bases in the Philippines.

‘Our business’: Philippines says no nation has right to question US bases

Control of the strategic Scarborough Shoal, seized in 2012 by China, is a sensitive issue as it formed part of a legal case filed by the Philippines at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The court ruled in 2016 that Beijing’s claim to 90 per cent of the South China Sea had no basis under international law.

China has refused to recognise the landmark ruling.

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