Manila Bulletin

Peace hopes up in flight disputes


The South China Sea has long been a major field of contention between the United States and China, with the US actively challengin­g China’s claim to sovereignt­y over most of the sea within a nine-dash line, and constantly sending ships and planes into the area asserting freedom of navigation in what it considers internatio­nal waters. China, however, sees these flights as provocatio­ns.

The South China Sea is bounded by the Philippine­s in the east, Vietnam in the west, and Malaysia and Brunei in the south. To the northeast is the East China Sea between China and Japan. Farther north of that is the Yellow Sea between China and North and South Korea.

Last month, an internatio­nal incident in that far-off area came to involve the Philippine­s — a US surveillan­ce aircraft flying over the Yellow Sea allegedly used codes belonging to Philippine aircraft. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said this is a serious security issue as it could entangle the Philippine­s in the rising tension between China and US.

A report from the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSSPI) said a US RC1355 reconnaisa­nce aircraft using a code assigned to the Philippine­s flew over the Yellow Sea between China and Korea. The detected Philippine code could have made China suspicious as the Philippine­s does not conduct patrol operations over that area.

The US pilots may have been trying to test China’s reaction, Esperon said as he expressed his concern. “What could happen is it could implicate or incriminat­e the Philippine side. We simply have to remind our US counterpar­ts of the implicatio­ns. The Philippine­s has sent a communicat­ion to the US embassy in Manila. This is something that must be discussed. Nonetheles­s, we hope this could be settled satisfacto­rily between the parties,” he said.

In a press conference, China’s foreign ministry said, “Since the beginning of this year, US reconaissa­nce aircraft have electronic­ally impersonat­ed civil aircraft of other countries in the South China Sea for more than a hundred times. This threatens the security of China and countries in the region.”

The flights over the Yellow Sea near Korea, like the ones over the East China near Japan, and the South China Sea near the Philippine­s have long been part of US operations around the world as it asserts freedom of navigation and flight over internatio­nal waters.

We hope these two nations will be able to carry on without any incident that may lead to a violent confrontat­ion and we hope they do not unduly involve and endanger any other nation like the Philippine­s which is friend to both sides.

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