The Philippines and Vietnam have expressed concern over a group of Chinese ships gathered near a disputed area of the South China Sea.
A spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he had spoken to China’s ambassador about the situation at Whitsun Reef. The reef sits in a disputed area of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines, China and Vietnam.
Vietnam also criticized the presence of the Chinese ships, saying they had violated the country’s sovereignty.
International concern has grown in recent days as the Philippines described a “swarming and threatening presence” of more than 200 Chinese ships in the area. Philippine officials have said it believes the ships are controlled by a maritime militia.
The Associated Press reported the Philippine military had ordered more navy ships to be deployed to the area to carry out “sovereignty” watches. So far, the ships have ignored Philippine demands to leave the area.
China has said it owns the offshore territory, which sits near the southwest end of the western Philippine province of Palawan. China also said the ships were sheltering from rough seas. It denied the ships were controlled by maritime militias.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not say how close the Philippine navy ships planned to get to the Chinese ships. But a military spokesman said the deployment was meant to protect Philippine naval forces in the area from “harassment.”
The Philippine government says the reef is well within the country's internationally recognized economic territory permitting the country to be in the area and explore resources.
China claims large parts of the South China Sea. Other claimants include Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan. China says its claims come from historical usage of the waters. Trillions of dollars of trade flow through the waters each year.
Vietnam also claims the reef as its territory. A foreign ministry spokeswoman said Thursday the Chinese ships were in violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty.
“Vietnam requests that China stop this violation and respect Vietnam’s sovereignty,” the spokeswoman told reporters.
Data released by the ship tracking website Marine Traffic said a Vietnamese coastguard ship was seen near the disputed area on Thursday. The foreign ministry spokeswoman said the coastguard was carrying out its duties “as regulated by laws,” including international law.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Reuters and The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
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Words in This Story
reef – n. a long line of rocks or coral or a high area of sand near the surface of the water in the ocean
sovereignty – n. a country's independent authority and the right to govern itself
swarm – v. to move in a large group
maritime – adj. concerning the sea
harassment – n. to make repeated attacks against (an enemy)
track – v. to follow the course along which someone or something moves or proceeds
regulate – v. to bring (something) under the control of authority