Fillipinas reject Chinese claims to reef in the South China Sea
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs today issued a statement formally protesting what it considers China’s “illegal designation” of the Fiery Cross reef as a regional administrative center in the disputed Spratly archipelago.
The dispute over the Fiery Cross reef, occupied by China in 1988, is yet another episode of litigation between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, which has provoked frequent diplomatic and military conflicts.
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of taking advantage of the turbulent period of global combat to the covid-19 pandemic to advance its territorial claims.
“The Philippines asks China to adhere to international law,” said the US State Department, reminding Beijing of a 2002 agreement that urged governments that they consider having rights in the South China Sea to exercise self-control protocols and to avoid actions that escalate disputes and destabilize the region.
The Government of the Philippines has complained against Chinese territorial claims in the waters of the region since 2012, claiming that Beijing has illegally established several posts on islands in the South Sea, including the city of Sansha.
The Philippines has repeatedly stated that it “does not recognize Sansha, nor its constituent units, nor any subsequent acts of them”.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs cites a July 2016 international arbitration ruling that Chinese territorial claims in the South Sea, including the Paracel Islands and seven reefs, including that of Fiery Cross, are invalid.
The Asia-based Maritime Transparency Initiative organization, based in the United States, which monitors territorial conflicts in the region, said the Fiery Cross reef has been transformed into an important Chinese military base, home to air control missiles and radars.
This explains the protest presented by the Philippine Government, last week, against the installation of an arms control radar, installed in mid-February, which allows to block missiles fired at sea targets.
China and the Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, have for decades been involved in an intricate conflict over islands, reefs, atolls and rich fishing waters in the South China Sea.