China air base on Kag­itin­gan Reef a se­cu­rity threat, says Palace

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Front Page -

mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the dis­puted Kag­itin­gan (Fiery Cross) Reef in the South China Sea is not sur­pris­ing, but Pres­i­den­tial Spokesper­son Harry Roque Jr. stressed this is a “threat to peace and se­cu­rity.”

“From the very be­gin­ning, China -- we knew -was mil­i­ta­riz­ing the area by re­claim­ing these ar­eas and by us­ing them as mil­i­tary bases. So the fact that they are ac­tu­ally us­ing it now as mil­i­tary bases, as far as I am con­cerned, is not new. It’s not news be­cause we’ve al­ways been against the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the area,” Roque said in a press con­fer­ence Tues­day, January 9.

“Kag­itin­gan is one of the is­lands that it (China) had al­ready re­claimed and this is also one of the is­lands sub­ject to the ar­bi­tral tri­bunal de­ci­sion that it is within the Philip­pine eco­nomic zone. It’s cer­tainly not okay be­cause of course, it con­sti­tutes a fur­ther threat to peace and se­cu­rity in the area,” he added.

China has re­port­edly trans­formed Kag­itin­gan Reef into a 2.8-square-kilo­me­ter for­ti­fied air base, equipped with com­plete mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions.

A re­port by Hong Kong-based news web­site Asia Times de­tailed how Kag­itin­gan Reef has been trans­formed into a Chi­nese mil­i­tary base, which fea­tures a 3,125-me­ter run­way for H-6K strate­gic bombers.

Asia Times also re­ported that China’s ar­ti­fi­cial is­land has a hos­pi­tal and mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing early warning radars and close-prox­im­ity weapons sys­tems.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, over 200 Chi­nese sol­diers have been sta­tioned on the Kag­itin­gan Reef.

A year-end fea­ture aired by Chi­nese state broad­caster China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion showed a rare aerial shot of Kag­itin­gan Reef that has been trans­formed into a big is­land.

The re­port came amid China and the Philip­pines’ im­proved ties, de­spite the Hague-based Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion’s rul­ing that fa­vored Manila

and in­val­i­dated Beijing’s “nine-dash line” claim in the con­tested South China Sea.

On Monday, January 8, De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana said the Philip­pines will file a diplo­matic protest against China, if the lat­ter in­deed mil­i­ta­rized Kag­itin­gan Reef.

Roque said fil­ing a diplo­matic protest was the “proper rem­edy” for the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment.

The pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son, how­ever, stressed that there was no “breach of good faith” since China was not re­ported to be re­claim­ing new is­lands in the dis­puted waters.

“(Fil­ing a diplo­matic protest) is the proper rem­edy but that’s some­thing the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs will have to ad­dress. But all I’m say­ing is that there is still no breach of the good faith obli­ga­tion, for as long as China has not em­barked on new recla­ma­tions,” Roque said.

“The point is, has there been a breach of Chi­nese com­mit­ment not to re­claim any new is­lands or shoals in the area? For as long as there is none, then we con­tinue to re­spect that they are true to their com­mit­ment not to do so,” he added. SunS­tar Philip­pines

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