The Philippines yesterday warned that China may be building an airstrip on a reef in the South China Sea to boost its claim to most of the strategic, disputed waters.
Philippine surveillance aircraft have been monitoring large-scale reclamation and earth-moving activity on the Chinese-held Johnson South Reef (Chigua Reef, 赤瓜礁) since January, the Philippine Department of Defence said.
The reef is part of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), parts or all of which are claimed by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
Asked if China was building an airstrip on the reef, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario said: “That’s one possibility.”
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) yesterday would not confirm Manila’s assertion, but said that the outcrop was Chinese territory.
“Whatever construction China carries out on the reef is a matter entirely within the scope of China’s sovereignty. I don’t know what particular intentions the Philippines has in caring so much about this,” she said at a regular press briefing.
Last week, the Chinese press downplayed the activity at the reef, saying it was merely to renovate the living facilities for troops stationed there.
“We can confirm that there is ongoing reclamation or earthmoving activities in that portion,” defense department spokesman Peter Galvez told reporters yesterday. “It has been getting bigger and bigger.”
Del Rosario told reporters Manila filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing’s reclamation works on the reef last month, but China rejected it on grounds that the reef is part of its territory.
The Philippines calls the outcrop the Mabini Reef, while China calls it Chigua Reef and internationally, it is recognized as the Johnson South Reef.
China seized the reef and other outcrops from Vietnam in a deadly 1988 skirmish.
It is not the first time the Philippines has made allegations against China over construction at disputed outcrops in the sea.
In September last year, Manila accused Beijing of laying concrete blocks on the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島) that it said could be a “prelude to construction.”
However, in an embarrassing about-face, Manila dropped the allegations weeks later after concluding that the concrete blocks were previously existing structures.
Manila said China took effective control of the shoal in 2012, stationing patrol vessels and shooing away Filipino fishermen after a standoff with the Philippine Navy.
Meanwhile, the Philippines yesterday said that two of the 11 Chinese fishermen arrested last week by Philippine police in another area of the Spratlys were flown to Guangzhou late on Tuesday.
Manila filed charges against the other nine for poaching and collecting protected species, but freed the two because they are minors.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses