Manila says the images show Beijing violated a regional agreement not to escalate territorial disputes by reclaiming a reef claimed by it
The Philippine government said it released on Thursday military surveillance pictures of Chinese land reclamation on a reef claimed by Manila in the South China Sea that show Beijing violated a regional agreement not to escalate territorial disputes, reports AP.
Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Charles Jose said the pictures show Chinese aggressiveness in asserting its claims over the entire South China Sea.
The aerial photographs were accompanied by a caption stating that they were obtained from “Philippine intelligence sources.” The caption said the “extensive reclamation” by China on the Johnson South Reef, called Mabini by Manila and Chigua by Beijing, was “destabilising.”
The Chinese Embassy in Manila had no immediate comment, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing has said that the area is part of China’s territory, and that any Chinese activities at the reef should be of no concern to Manila.
Jose said a 2002 nonbinding agreement between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations calls for restraint in conducting activities in the region that would “complicate or escalate disputes” and to not inhabit uninhabited areas.
“We want to show people that (China’s) actions are part of its aggressive behaviour to assert its claim in violation of the DOC,” or Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was signed by China, Philippines and nine other ASEAN members, Jose said.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said yesterday that it was not clear what China would build on the reclaimed land, but that an airstrip was a possibility.
A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk about the issue, said it could also be used as a military base and a resupply and refuelling hub.
The official said the reclamation was first detected by air force planes six months ago. An airstrip or a military base on the reef would boost the mobility of Beijing’s naval and air forces in the South China Sea region, far from the Chinese mainland.