Palace: No cause for alarm over Chinese presence in S. China Sea

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 30) — Malacañang on Friday downplayed the presence of Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, saying it is not a cause for concern for the Philippines. 

“No cause (for) alarm as show of force is not directed at us,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told CNN Philippines.

Roque was referring to new satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. dated March 26 showing China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning with dozens of vessels south of Hainan in the South China Sea.

READ: U.S. challenged by China's navy in South China Sea

The display of vessels followed the entry of a United States missile destroyer 22 kilometers off Mischief Reef in the disputed waters as part of the country's freedom of navigation operations.

READ: U.S. destroyer sails close to contested island in South China Sea

Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang called the U.S. entry into the reefs “a serious political and military provocation.”

“The Chinese side strongly urges the U.S. side to immediately stop provocative operations that violate China's sovereignty and threaten China's security and faithfully respect the regional countries' concerted efforts to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Kang said Thursday.

On March 20, Chinese state media reported the country would conduct live-fire military drills in the contested waters on an undisclosed date. The report added the drills were not “targeted toward any specific country or aim.”

The South China Sea is one of the most disputed regions in the world — with China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines having overlapping claims there. China has built artificial islands on the Paracel and Spratly island groups as part of its nine-dash line ownership claim in the area.

President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued warmer ties with China, so far refusing to raise an international court’s ruling on the maritime row in 2016 upholding the Philippines' claims over the contested islands.