Photos of Chinese ships deployed near a key disputed reef in the South China Sea surfaced over the weekend as U.S. and Chinese leaders met at the Group of 20 nations summit and discussed maritime disputes.
The Philippines Defense Ministry published photos of 11 Chinese ships near Scarborough Shoal that include vessels that some reports indicated appear designed for dredging operations – a key indicator Beijing is ignoring U.S. and international calls for a halt to island-building on disputed reefs and islands.
A Pentagon official confirmed that the Chinese have stepped up the number of ships and maritime patrol craft in the vicinity of Scarborough – a large reef claimed by China and Philippines and close to Subic Bay where U.S. warships will be deployed in the future in support of an upgraded Washington-Manila defense pact. But the official said it could not confirm Philippines reports they included dredging ships.
The 11 Chinese ships deployed around the northern edge of the shoal include four Chinese maritime security ships and seven blue-hulled ships that could be either fishing-related ships or possibly construction and dredging vessels. One of the ships is a fishing vessel.