Gazmin: Warship deployment in South China Sea to test freedom of navigation
The reported deployment of United States warships in South China Sea seemed to have left Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin unfazed.
“They have always been doing that in the first place. They said that they will fly [or] sail in areas, [which] they have been doing to prove that there is freedom of navigation.” he told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo on Friday.
The US said on Thursday it is considering sailing its warships near China’s artificial islands in the next two weeks.
A US official who was not named was quoted by the Financial Times as saying that they are planning to deploy ships within the 12 nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratlys.
The deployment is still for approval from the Obama administration, the report said.
Last month, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that US would “fly, sail and operate” wherever international law allows as US forces do all over the world.
China has been building artificial islands around the disputed waterway in recent months, and has ignored rival claims of Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.
The disputed South China Sea is believed to be rich in resources, with $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passing through it every year.
Gazmin said the US deployment would test the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
“They are showing that they are following the rule of law. This will prove that if ever they will be challenged [by China], it means there is no freedom of navigation,” Gazmin said.