MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines may ask the United States to deploy spy planes over the South China Sea to help monitor the disputed waters, President Benigno Aquino told Reuters on Monday, a move that could worsen tensions with its giant neighbor China.
The two countries only recently stepped back from a months-long standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, a horseshoe shaped reef near the Philippines in waters they both claim – the latest round of naval brinkmanship over the resource-rich sea.
The United States has stressed it is neutral in the long-running maritime dispute, despite offering to help boost the Philippines’ decrepit military forces. China has warned that “external forces” should not get involved.
“We might be requesting overflights on that,” Aquino told Reuters in an interview, referring to U.S. P3C Orion spy planes. “We don’t have aircraft with those capabilities.”
Above: P-3C Orion long-range maritime patrol aircraft
There was no immediate comment from Washington.
Last month, Aquino pulled out a lightly armed coast guard ship and a fisheries boat due to bad weather around the Scarborough Shoal, a group of rock formations about 140 miles west of the main Philippine island of Luzon.
The South China Sea is potentially the biggest military flashpoint in Asia, and tensions have risen since the United States adopted a policy last year to reinforce its influence in the region.
At stake is control over what are believed to be significant reserves of oil and gas. Estimates for proven and undiscovered oil reserves in the entire sea range from 28 billion to as high as 213 billion barrels of oil, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a March 2008 report.
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Background from The Wall Street Journal:
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s top newspaper accused the Philippines of orchestrating a plot to deliberately stir up tensions over the disputed South China Sea, and warned that Beijing’s patience should not be mistaken for weakness.
The Philippines may ask the United States to deploy spy planes over the area to help monitor its waters, President Benigno Aquino told Reuters on Monday, a move that could worsen tensions with its giant neighbor China.
China and the Philippines only recently stepped back from a months-long standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, a horseshoe-shaped reef near the Philippines in waters they both claim – the latest round of naval brinkmanship over the resource-rich sea.
China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia all have competing claims in the South China Sea, but China’s claims encompass almost all its waters.
A commentary in Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily on Tuesday said the Philippines was once more planning to stoke tensions over the issue at a key regional security summit starting later this week in Cambodia.
Tags: Aquino, Brunei, China, China National Offshore Oil Corp., Huangyan Island, Malaysia, oil, P3C Orion, Paracel Islands, PetroVietnam, Philippines, President Benigno Aquino, raw materials, resources, Scarborough Shoal, Spratly Islands, spy planes, Taiwan, territorial, territory, U.S. Navy, Vietnam, Vietnam Oil & Gas