Malacañang said on Friday the Philippines has no objection to the sailing of an American warship near an artificial island built by China in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said international law guaranteed freedom of navigation in the area.
“In the words of [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana, the Philippines has no objection regarding the presumed innocent passage of sea craft,” Abella said in a press briefing.
“And that there is, of course, the freedom of navigation. In other words, from our side, we find no objection,” he added.
The USS John S. McCain sailed within 11.11 kilometers (six nautical miles) near Mischief Reef, the international name for Panganiban Reef—which is claimed by the Philippines but occupied by China—in the Spratly Islands. A US official said the destroyer was on a “routine” freedom of navigation exercise.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the actions of the warship had violated Chinese and international law, “seriously” impairing the country’s sovereignty and security.
“China is strongly dissatisfied with this,” Geng said in a statement, adding that Beijing would lodge an official protest with Washington.
China has expansive claims over the South China Sea, and has been building man-made islands and military installations in waters that are also claimed by the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as Taiwan.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the US official said a Chinese frigate sent radio warnings at least 10 times to the USS McCain during its six-hour voyage.
“They called and said ‘Please turn around, you are in our waters,’” the official said. “We told them we are a US (ship) conducting routine operations in international waters.” —WITH A REPORT FROM AFP
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