In a rare public rebuke, the Philippines government this week issued a statement protesting the presence of a large number of Chinese vessels near Thitu Island, one of several disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Thitu Island, which is known in the Philippines as Pag-asa, is the second largest of the naturally-occuring Spratly Islands. Although it has been administered as part of the Philippines’ Kalayaan municipality since June 1978, the disputed island is also claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs said in a release that “the presence of Chinese vessels near and around Pag-asa and other maritime features in the KIG [Kalayaan Island Group] is illegal.”
“Such actions are a clear violation of Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, as defined under international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” the statement reads.
“Moreover, it has been observed that Chinese vessels have been present in large numbers and for sustained and recurring periods — what is commonly referred to as ‘swarming’ tactics — raising questions about their intent as well as concerns over their role in support of coercive objectives.”
“Such actions when not repudiated by the Chinese government are deemed to have been adopted by it. The presence of Chinese vessels within the KIG, whether military,…