HomeTop StoriesPhilippines to supply troops in South China Sea after Beijing bloc

Philippines to supply troops in South China Sea after Beijing bloc

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine armed forces said on Saturday it would try again to resupply troops stationed in a rusty World War II ship on a reef in the South China Sea after China blocked an earlier attempt with water cannons.

“This exercise of our sovereign rights and jurisdiction is testament to our firm belief in the rules-based international order that underpins regional peace and stability,” army spokesman Medel Aguilar said in a statement.

Manila filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing this month after China’s coast guard used water cannons and “dangerous” actions to prevent the Philippines from sending supplies to a handful of troops in the Second Thomas Shoal.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, a claim internationally rejected, while Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines have different claims in certain areas.

Manila calls on all relevant parties to respect its sovereignty and jurisdiction over its maritime zones, Aguilar said, adding that Manila supports the peaceful settlement of disputes.

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The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. China’s coast guard said on August 7 it had told the Philippines not to send any ships to the shoal and not to send “construction materials used for large-scale repair and strengthening” to the warship.

The Philippines deliberately grounded the warship in 1999 as part of its sovereignty claim to the shoal, which lies within the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

The planned resupply mission “is clear evidence of our determination to stand up against threats and coercion, and of our commitment to upholding the rule of law,” the armed forces said.

In 2016, an international arbitration award invalidated China’s massive claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

China, which does not recognize the ruling, has built artificial islands with airstrips and surface-to-air missiles in the South China Sea.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by William Mallard)

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