US fears China island building in Panatag Shoal
MANILA, Philippines – The United States fears that China is planning to build an artificial island in the disputed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Reuters reported.
In an exclusive report by Reuters on Thursday, March 17, US naval operations head Admiral John Richardson said the US military has monitored Chinese activity near Panatag Shoal.
“I think we see some surface ship activity and those sorts of things, survey type of activity, going on. That’s an area of concern...a next possible area of reclamation,” Richardson said.
Sought for comment on Friday, March 18, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said, “We are verifying this report with our concerned agencies.”
Panatag Shoal is the site of a standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in April 2012. (READ: PH’s 1st ‘mistake in Scarborough)
The Panatag Shoal standoff is seen as the last straw before the Philippines filed a historic case against China over the West Philippine Sea.
The tribunal handling the case in The Hague, Netherlands, is expected to rule on the case early 2016.
China air zone also feared
In his interview with Reuters, Richardson added that it is “definitely a concern” that China might soon build an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the West Philippine Sea before the tribunal issues its ruling.
An ADIZ will likely require planes to seek China’s permission before flying over the West Philippine Sea – a possibility already denounced by the Philippines.
On China's possible ADIZ in the West Philippine Sea, Richardson said the US “will just have to see what happens.” He said they “think about contingencies…and responses.”
Through its reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea, China has built artifical islands that add up to a third of the Philippine capital, Manila, as of July 2015.
The Philippines has accused China of building artificial islands to assert de facto control over the West Philippine Sea.
Saying it has the right to conduct activities in its own waters, China has brushed off the Philippines’ claims. – Rappler.com