US may give PHL more support to counter pressure from China over sea dispute

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – A think tank believed to be influential in the Obama administration has hinted of more support by the United States to the Philippines in order to counter further pressure from China over the Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal) in the Spratlys in South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

Patrick Cronin, senior director for Asia Pacific security program of Washington-based Center for a New American Security (CNAS), said there is need for the Philippines to “shore up” BRP Sierra Madre, a Navy ship that was deliberately run aground in 1999 and has since then deteriorated into its present decrepit condition.

Patrick Cronin of the Washington-based Center for a New American Security said the Philippines needs to ‘shore up’ the BRP Sierra Madre stationed on Ayungin Shoal. Sandra Aguinaldo
The BRP Sierra Madre serves “as a permanent Philippine installation in response to China’s illegal occupation of Mischief Reef in 1995,” the Deparment of Foreign Affairs previously said.

In a briefing with Asian journalists visiting Washington D.C., Cronin said the Philippines needs “to do more than just resupply food and water” to the small group of Marines stationed on the ship.

“It would have to shore up the structure in order to preserve it (BRP Sierra Madre),” Cronin said.

He warned that making improvements on the ship would certainly be opposed by China which has constantly maintained patrol ships near Ayungin Shoal. However, he also hinted of support from the US government.

“The United States would probably be in a stronger position soon to make sure that we can give more backing to the Philippines… I suspect more forward leaning in terms of trying to give Philippines support against potential coercion or actual coercion on this issue. It (the United States) is trying again to signal to China that is not a good behavior,” Cronin said.

CNAS is said to have provided security and military analysis for the White House and that some of its former officials have been appointed to various posts in the Obama administration.

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