South China Sea: Canada expresses support for Philippines
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The Asian superpower has claimed a large part of the South China Sea as its own which has triggered territorial disputes. Countries including the US have opposed China’s maritime sovereignty claims and have sent their own warships to the disputed waters to promote “freedom of the seas”.
This week, the Canadian Department of National Defence said HMCS Calgary sailed through the South China Sea.
The warship passed through the disputed waters on Monday and Tuesday while travelling from Brunei to Vietnam.
According to a Canadian Defence official speaking on the condition of anonymity, China shadowed the Canadian ship on its journey through the disputed waters.
Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier confirmed that the warship passed near the disputed Spratly Islands.
China and the Philippines have both claimed sovereignty of the islands and Beijing has set up military bases there.
Mr Le Bouthillier said the ship sailed through the South China Sea as it was the most practical route.
Tensions between China and other countries including Canada have heightened due to movements in the disputed waters.
Canada joined a host of western powers including the UK in condemning China’s growing aggression in the South China Sea earlier this month.
It came days after 220 Chinese ships were spotted moored near the Julian Felipe Reef inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.
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In a statement on Twitter, Canada’s ambassador to the Philippines Peter MacArthur said: “Canada opposes recent Chinese actions in the South China Sea, including off the coast of the Philippines, that escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the rules-based international order.”
The Philippine foreign ministry previously spoke out against China’s actions in the South China Sea.
In a statement, the ministry said: “The continued deployment, lingering presence and activities of Chinese vessels infringe upon Philippine sovereignty.
“Their swarming and threatening presence creates an atmosphere of instability.”
China denied allegations that its vessels were part of Beijing’s army and instead described them as ‘fishing vessels’ taking shelter due to “rough sea conditions.”
The Philippine foreign ministry demanded that China remove its ships from the area immediately.
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