The Philippine Defense Ministry on Thursday ordered the Army to reinforce its units in the South China Sea after observing “Chinese activities” near a strategic island under Philippine rule, Reuters reports.
The ministry’s disposition comes this week after disclosures of Chinese construction taking place in four disputed uninhabited spots on the Spratly Islands, something Beijing described as “unfounded”.
Any invasion or activity within the 200-mile Philippine exclusive economic zone “is a threat to the security of Thitu Island which is part of the sovereign territory of the Philippines,” the ministry statement read.
China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have a territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
There, the Asian giant built seven artificial islands on reefs that have military facilities such as surface-to-air missiles, aircraft hangars and landing strips.
In 2013, the Philippines unilaterally resorted to international arbitration to resolve the territorial dispute in the South China Sea. In 2016, the Court in The Hague upheld his claim, holding that the Chinese aspirations are incompatible with international law. However, Beijing does not recognize the court’s decision and considers that 90% of the sea is part of its territory.
More than 65% of Chinese trade is carried out annually through its waters, indicate the data released by the Association of Accredited Public Policy Advocates for the European Union in 2021.
In addition, Beijing reaffirms its right to install “the necessary defenses on its territory” of the Spratly Islands, one of the most disputed regions in the world.