The Department of National Defense yesterday released pictures showing what it said were Chinese boats near the disputed Scarborough or Panatag Shoal in the South China Sea, also known as West Philippine Sea, just hours before Southeast Asian nations were due to meet China’s premier at a summit in Laos.
There was no explanation for the timing of the release, but it came two days after Manila expressed “grave concern” about the increasing number of Chinese vessels around the Scarborough Shoal and demanded an explanation from Beijing’s ambassador.
A Filipino official said the release of the photographs and a map was ordered by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is at the summit in Vientiane, Laos.
A handout photo from the DND shows alleged positions of Chinese ships near a disputed shoal China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei claim parts or all of the resource-rich South China Sea, making it a hot spot of regional tension. The last four are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The 10 images and map were sent by email to journalists, many of whom are in Vientiane for the ASEAN summit. The leaders were due to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday, although it was unclear if the row over the South China Sea would be openly addressed. (Reuters and Francis T. Wakefield)