Philippine president Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday that he finds no problem with the reported deployment of USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, 12 nautical miles over the disputed South China Sea. The president said that such activity is permitted as long as the warship sails on international waters.
“I see no issue as to this US naval ship traversing under international law in waters that should be free to be traveled upon by any non-belligerent country,” Mr. Aquino said as posted by the Office of the President of the Philippines. Without naming China, the most provocative of nations claiming territorial rights in the region, the president said te hPhilippines is concerned about any movement that implied all activities in the region are being hampered by one single entity. He said the Philippines has about 40 percent of world trade traversing over the disputed islands and freedom of navigation should always be taken accounted for.
As reported by Morning News USA, unnamed military officials said that the U.S. has begun its patrol of the contested area by deploying the USS Lassen. On Tuesday, the U.S. guided-missile destroyer was followed at a safe distance by a Chinese ship, Reuters reported. An unnamed source revealed to Reuters that the USS Lassen has also sailed within 12 miles of reefs claimed by the Philippines.
The official said that such patrol will only be the first of many patrols to be conducted in the region. “I would expect that this becomes a regular operation in the South China Sea. This type of operation shouldn’t be seen as provocative,” the official said.
“What the U.S. is doing now will only damage the stability in the South China Sea, and send the wrong message to neighboring nations such as the Philippines and encourage them to take some risky behavior,” according to Xu Liping as reported by Bloomberg. Liping is a professor of Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that the allegedly “illegal” behavior of the U.S. warship is threatening China’s sovereignty and national interest and endangering the safety of the island’s staff and facilities. “The Chinese side expressed its strong discontent and firm opposition… relevant Chinese departments monitored, shadowed and warned the U.S. ship,” Kang stressed. The spokesman uphold that China has “indisputable” sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea.