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South China Sea tensions ramp up as top US ally savages China's 'absurd' demands

Control over the South China Sea has once again been thrown into question as a top regional ally of the US raged at China over its “absurd” demands.

The Philippines have warned it will continue to supply its outpost in the Second Thomas Shoal, a reef in the Spratly Islands that Beijing has been maintaining for decades is in its territorial waters.

Manila warned it will not bow to “absurd, nonsense and unacceptable” pressure from the PRC to have a say on the maintenance of its military settlement on the BRP Sierra Madre.

The World War 2-era tank landing ship was deliberately run aground in 1999 to assert the Philippines’s sovereignty over the reef.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano said: “Our operations are conducted within our own territorial waters and EEZ.”

He added: “We will not be deterred by foreign interference or intimidation.”

Mr Ano’s comments were in response to demands from China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning that Manila notify Beijing ahead of any delivery of provisions or movement of personnel from BRP Sierra Madre.

He hit out at the Chinese Coast Guard, with whom their Filipino counterparts have repeatedly clashed in recent months, for “aggressive actions” against a vessel evacuating a sick soldier from the South China Sea outpost last month.

The national security chief described China’s conduct as “barbaric and inhumane”.

He added: “Such actions are not only violations of international maritime laws but also of basic human rights.”

Mr Ano also slammed “equally reprehensible” reports of Chinese authorities allegedly seizing food and medical supplies headed to BRP Sierra Madre and demanded a “thorough investigation.”

General Romeo Brawner said the Chinese personnel may have suspected the packages contained construction materials intended to reinforce the Filipino outpost.

After discovering the package contained food, they dumped the items, which included rice and biscuits, into the sea, Gen Brawner said.

The territorial disputes have strained relations and sparked fears the conflict could bring China and the United States, a longtime treaty ally of the Philippines, into a military confrontation.

Washington lays no territorial claims to the busy seaway, a key global trade route, but has warned that it’s obligated to defend the Philippines if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack in the South China Sea.

Aside from China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are also involved in the long-seething territorial disputes, which are regarded as a flashpoint in Asia and a delicate fault line in the longstanding US-China rivalry in the region.


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