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Philippines Foreign Secretary admitted China's weaponization in Scarborough Shoal in the East Sea

16:29 | 23/06/2020

The Philippines Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jnr said on June 22 that China had "consolidated and weaponized" the Scarborough Shoal in the East Sea (also called South China Sea). In a wide-ranging television interview, Teodoro Locsin Jnr also discussed China’s occupation of the Scarborough Shoal and US freedom of navigation.

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philippines foreign secretary admitted chinas weaponization in scarborough shoal in the east sea
China-seized-control-of-Scarborough-Shoal-from-the-Philippines-after-a-ship-collision-between-the-two-sides-in-2012. Photo AMTI / CSIS-

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin made the above statement in an interview with ABS-CBN News. “One thing is sure, they already have a landing strip for fighter jets,” he said. “It is virtually a – I was going to say an unsinkable aircraft carrier, but the Americans are assuming they can erase it in the first 30 minutes of conflict. But it’s there. We call that in the business an ordnance platform. And it’s complete., Locsin said, reiterating at the US's Indo-Pacific Command (CINCPAC) meeting, where he re-inquired about China's ability to expand its power by using Scarborough, according to the SCMP. 

philippines foreign secretary admitted chinas weaponization in scarborough shoal in the east sea
Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jnr REUTERS

On June 9, the retired judge Antonio Carpio, who used to work in the Supreme Court of the Philippines, warned that China could soon set up an air and naval base on Scarborough Shoal. Carpio thinks this is the next step in China's plan to create an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East Sea (South China Sea), according to the CNN. Carpio argued that without an air and naval base, ADIZ could not be applied to the East Sea (South China Sea) because there was a "gap in the reach of Chinese jets, missiles and radar" in the Scarborough's vicinity.

philippines foreign secretary admitted chinas weaponization in scarborough shoal in the east sea
Philippine-Secretary-of-Foreign-Affairs-Teodoro-Locsin-Jnr-disagreed-that-he-and-the-defence-secretary-had-asked-Duterte-to-reverse-his-decision. (Photo: AP)

In an interview with the ABS-CBN News, Locsin said that President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to suspend the cancellation of the Visiting Force Agreement (VFA) with the US stems from the leader's wishes of stress reduction in the East Sea (South China Sea0, not convinced by him and The Phiilippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana.

philippines foreign secretary admitted chinas weaponization in scarborough shoal in the east sea
Filipino-soldiers-during-a joint-drill-with-the-US-in-the-East Sea. (Photo: Reuters)

President Duterte ordered the cancellation of VFA in February, after weeks of threatening to cancel the deal if the US government did not re-issue visas for former police commander to become Senator Ronald dela Rosa. The senator was blacklisted for his role in Duterte's fight against drugs. The cancellation of the VFA will take effect in August, but Duterte changed his decision and on Monday ordered Secretary of Foreign Affairs Locsin to notify the US side of the temporary uncancellation of VFA. The decision to temporarily uncancel VFA will be reviewed every 6 months.

Foreign Secratary Locsin also affirmed that the three US aircraft carrier combat groups operating at the same time in the Philippine Sea, near the East Sea, were not related to the decision to temporarily uncancel VFA. He said that the United States is doing its right to free circulation in the East Sea and that is international right."

philippines foreign secretary admitted chinas weaponization in scarborough shoal in the east sea
The-USguided-missile-destroyer -USS- Barry- conducts- operations- on- April- 28, -2020 in the East Sea. (Photo: AFP)

Philippines, China stopped negotiating joint oil and gas exploitation in the East Sea

In an interview with the ABS-CBN News on June 22, Foreign Secretary Locsin confirmed that the negotiations between the Philippines and China over joint oil and gas exploration projects in the East Sea have been suspended, but did not specify the reason. Beijing and Manila signed a memorandum of understanding on joint oil and gas exploration in the East Sea in November 2018 during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the Philippines.

Despite domestic and foreign warnings, in August 1919, the Philippines agreed with China to set up an intergovernmental steering committee and a cooperation committee between businesses of the two countries to promote joint oil and gas exploration in East Sea with 60 - 40 split in favor of Manila.

 

Tarah Nguyen