China Dismisses Philippine Concerns Over EEZ Incursions

Posted by Joseph Keefe

China on Friday dismissed concerns expressed by the
Philippine defence minister over what he believed to be survey
missions by its ships deep into the southeast Asian nation's 200
nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Amid a warming relationship, President Rodrigo Duterte has
frequently praised China, but Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
has remained openly suspicious, saying it has continued its
fortification of manmade islands inside the Philippine EEZ.

Lorenzana said Chinese ships were monitored in recent months at
locations near the Philippines, with a warship spotted 70 miles
off its western coast in the South China Sea and survey ships
seen to the north and south of its eastern seaboard.

He said satellite imagery provided by allies had tracked Chinese
vessels for three months last year in Benham Rise, a vast area
the United Nations has declared to be part of the Philippines'
continental shelf.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said its ships
had every right of freedom of navigation in those waters, and its
research ships did pass through seas northeast of Luzon Island
last year.

"But this is purely carrying out normal freedom of navigation and
right of innocent passage, and there were no so-called other
activities or operations," he told a regular news briefing.

"Comments from individuals in the Philippines on this do not
accord with the facts."

To the northeast of Luzon is the Western Pacific, where China is
increasingly carrying out military drills.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through
which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.
Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam
also have claims.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard

Mar 10, 2017

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