Japan expresses concern over tensions in PH waters

180314-N-ZL062-0174 PHILIPPINE SEA (March 14, 2018) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) transits the Philippine Sea during MultiSail 2018. MultiSail is a bilateral training exercise improving interoperability between the U.S. and Japanese forces. This exercise benefits from realistic, shared training enhancing our ability to work together to confront any contingency. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sarah Myers/Released)

The Japanese Embassy in Manila on Tuesday aired its concern on the current situation in the South China Sea (SCS), hours after the United States expressed its position over the swarming of some 200 Chinese vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a statement, Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko said issues related to the strategic waters are “directly related” to the region’s stability.

“The South China Sea issues are directly related to peace and stability and a concern for all. Japan strongly opposes any action that heightens tensions,” Kazuhiko said on Twitter. “We support the enforcement of rule of law in the sea and work with the international community to protect the free, open, and peaceful seas.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines confirmed on Monday that about 183 vessels believed to be Chinese maritime militia were sighted by a Philippine maritime air patrol in Julian Felipe Reef, also known as Whitsun Reef, about 175 nautical miles off Palawan.

The US, the country’s defense ally, said it stands with the Philippines as it expressed concern over this unauthorized and lingering presence of Chinese fishing vessels on Philippine waters.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Manila took to Twitter and even tagged the official handle of the US Embassy in the Philippines to tell Washington to stay out of the South China Sea issue.

“The US is not a party to the South China Sea issue. Fanning flames and provoking confrontation in the region will only serve selfish interests of individual country and undermine the regional peace and stability,” it said.

It added that both China and the Philippines are sovereign and independent countries and “have the will, wisdom, and ability to properly handle relevant issues through bilateral channels.”

The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, told China to immediately withdraw its fishing vessels on the country’s waters in the West Philippine Sea.

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