The United States said Tuesday it’s backing the Philippines in a new standoff with Beijing in the disputed South China Sea, where Manila has asked a Chinese fishing flotilla to leave a reef. China ignored the call, insisting it owns the offshore territory.
The U.S. Embassy said it shared the concerns of the Philippines and accused China of using “maritime militia to intimidate, provoke, and threaten other nations, which undermines peace and security in the region.” “We stand with the Philippines, our oldest treaty ally in Asia,” the U.S. Embassy in Manila said in a statement.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday demanded about 200 Chinese vessels he said were militia boats leave the Whitsun Reef, a shallow coral region about 175 nautical miles (324 kilometers) west of Bataraza town in the western Philippine province of Palawan. Philippine officials said the reef, which they call Julian Felipe, is well within the country’s internationally recognized exclusive economic zone, over which the Philippines “enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources.”