The Philippine Coast Guard documented the deployment of over 220 Chinese vessels to Julian Felipe Reef, a territory located in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The Philippines considered the vessels to be part of the Chinese maritime militia. On the other hand, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian claimed that they were only fishing vessels and not militant ships.
Recently, the Department of Foreign Affairs launched a diplomatic protest, under the advice of the National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, against China, in violation of the UNCLOS ruling.
A day after the Philippines installed ships in the area, China Maritime Safety Administration reported that their country will be conducting military exercises in parts of the West Philippine Sea. President Rodrigo Duterte also told Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that he asked the Chinese ambassador to remove vessels from the reef since it alarms the Filipino people.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced his country’s support for his ally, the Philippines, on maritime militia issues. He tweeted: “The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in the face of the PRC’s maritime militia amassing at WhitsunReef. We will always stand by our allies and stand up for the rules-based international order.”
China’s aggressive action on this issue is another way to assert its power and intimidate other countries, which is part of what Ganadillo (2019) called “salami slice” and “cabbage strategy” that the country uses to ensure control over the claimed areas.