Mattis says U.S. to continue operations in South China Sea

Mattis says U.S. to continue operations in South China Sea

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, despite overlapping claims with other countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The Pentagon last sent a US ship through the same waters in March, near Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

The US-Chinese standoff in the South China Sea takes place amid the ongoing disagreements on external trade between the two states.

National security and defence experts have said that the military operations being conducted by the Pentagon are mainly symbolic and that they have no impact on how China will behave going forward.

Esperon also assured that the Duterte administration was not abandoning the Philippines' legal victory against China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, although it refused to assert the arbitration court's decision.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano maintained that government is protecting the national territory and sovereign rights "to the fullest" and will not in any way engage in a shouting match with China.

"The Philippine government has not been remiss in undertaking diplomatic actions against any nation", Esperon said.

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China should also not attempt to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin [Second Thomas] Shoal, where the government grounded it in 1999 to mark Philippine territory in the Spratly archipelago, he added. "If there's multiple nation militarizing, and it isn't exclusively the islands, if big navies are crusing by means of the world, is that not militarization?" he mentioned. The deployment of the nuclear-capable bomber on Woody Island was reportedly part of its military training exercises. "He said, 'Whatever happens, happens.' He will go to war", Cayetano said in a speech on Monday quoted in CNN, referring to Duterte.

While the 1987 Charter allows the Philippines to enter into a co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements, such agreements should only be entered with private companies at least 60 percent owned by Filipino citizens.

"We're going out of our way to cooperate with the Pacific nations. So, we're doing it the Duterte way which is traditional building of trust through diplomacy", Cayetano said.

During the meeting, Cayetano also fended off a call from Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano that he resign, for constantly appeasing the Chinese. The PLA's component land, air and naval forces must be able to operate jointly and prevail in both conventional and new theaters of operation, he said.

"During a reprovisioning mission for our troops in Ayungin, LS507 of the Philippine Navy was challenged and harassed by the Coast Guard and the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China".

Two Philippine officials said Wednesday that the navy personnel on board the rubber boat were unharmed in the May 11 incident and proceeded to deliver the supplies to marines on board a grounded Philippine navy ship at Second Thomas Shoal, which has been guarded by Chinese forces.

The Chinese helicopter hovered "dangerously close" to the Philippine rubber boat, "around 40-50 feet above, seemingly trying to harass and overturn it", said one of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the incident publicly.