The Philippine Ministry of Defense announced, Thursday, that Manila may seek the assistance of the United States, with which it concluded a mutual defense treaty, to protect its interests in the South China Sea, in a veiled threat amid the escalation of the dispute with China over the disputed coral reef area.
, The Philippine government demanded the departure of dozens of Chinese ships suspected of being under the command of militias from the “Whitson Reef”, which Manila claims is located in the Spratly region, which witnesses strong competition for the waterway.
China insists it possesses the coral reefs, and that Chinese ships are sheltering in the area for protection from rough seas.
The Philippine military has deployed coast guard and naval patrols near the area, deployed reconnaissance aircraft and broadcast pictures of Chinese ships, many of them lined up side by side as they dock in the coral reef area, which Manila calls Julian Philip.
The confrontation sparked an intense debate between Philippine Defense Secretary Delphine Lorenzana and the Chinese Embassy in Manila.
“As the situation in the West Philippine Sea evolves, we are keeping all of our options open in managing the situation, including leveraging our partnerships with other countries such as the United States,” Philippine Defense Department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.