Swarming of militia ships at Julian Felipe Reef ‘justified and lawful’ – China
MANILA, Philippines — The swarming of Chinese militia vessels in the Philippines’ Julian Felipe Reef is a “justified and lawful” move, the Foreign Ministry of China insisted on Monday evening.
The Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said in a press conference that Julian Felipe Reef, which he called Niu’e Jiao, is a part of Chinese territory.
“Niu’e Jiao is part of China’s Nansha Qundao. Relevant waters of the South China Sea, including Niu’e Jiao and its adjacent waters, have always been important operating areas and shelters for Chinese fishing boats,” Wang said.
“It is justified and lawful for Chinese fishing boats to operate or shelter from wind in the area, and the Philippines is in no position to make irresponsible remarks.”
But Julian Felipe Reef is a low tide elevation in the West Philippine Sea, well within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The illegal presence of Chinese militia vessels within Philippine waters prompted National Security Adviser Eduardo Año to order a maritime patrol in response to what he called an “alarming development.”
This was not the first time that the illegal presence of Chinese ships was observed in Philippine waters.
In mid-November, some 111 Chinese ships on the reef located 324 kilometers west of Bataraza, Palawan province were also seen.