BANGKOK — The presence of large numbers of Chinese vessels near islands and islets occupied by the Philippines is “a concern,” a senior U.S. defense official said Friday.
The Philippine government protested the Chinese ship movements Thursday after its military monitored more than 200 Chinese vessels from January-March in a disputed area named Sandy Cay, which is near the Philippine-occupied island of Pag-asa.
Asked about the situation while on a visit to Bangkok, Joseph Felter, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, told reporters that the U.S. is troubled “by any aggressive activity by any country in the South China Sea, in this case China. We see that as of concern.”
“In this case, China’s activities are of concern. It seems to be somewhat aggressive and provocative and we feel that they’re unnecessary and unwarranted,” said Felter, who was in Thailand to attend a meeting of defense officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.
He noted that the U.S. does not take a stance on various conflicting claims in the South China Sea. But the U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific region involves working with allies and partners to keep the seas free and open and ensure that “no country’s sovereignty is undermined,” he said.