US Navy readies sea patrols near man-made Chinese islands in West Philippine Sea


WASHINGTON—The Obama administration will soon order Navy warships to patrol near man-made islands constructed by China in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea to the Philippines), a US warning that it will not accept Beijing’s vast territorial claims in the heavily traveled waters, officials said.

But a decision to escalate the tit-for-tat jockeying with Beijing carries risks: Depending on how the planned display of US power unfolds, it could be seen by Beijing and American allies in the region as a sign of US strength—or of a reluctance to confront China.

Protection of freedom of navigation

Malacañang, meanwhile, has enlisted support of more countries eager to protect freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), as the United States justifies plan to sail near China’s artificial isles straddling vital sea-lanes in the region.

“Many countries have already indicated their support for the Philippines’s position on a rules-based, peaceful dispute settlement, and on upholding freedom of navigation long before this most recent development,” Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. said on Wednesday.

Coloma did not identify the foreign governments that manifested backing for the Philippine position but earlier reports named several countries belonging to the Asean and the European Union (EU) that signaled encouragement for Philippine officials to pursue arbitration proceedings in international tribunal, as provided in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

President Aquino’s Chief Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who was asked if the Palace intends to boost international backing for the government’s case against China’s encroachments in the West Philippine Sea, opted to pass the matter to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“I have deferred questions on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to the DFA,” Lacierda said in a text message. This developed as ranking officials of the United States and Australia on Wednesday reaffirmed their governments commitment “to sustain and renew an Asia-Pacific regional security architecture, where everyone rises and everyone prospers.”

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