World

Manila to protest to China for reneging on South China Sea promise

MANILA The Philippines will make a diplomatic protest to China, which it described as reneging on a promise not to militarise the artificial islands in the busy South China Sea waterway, its defence minister said on Monday.

The US has criticised China's build-up of military facilities on the artificial islands and is concerned they could be used to restrict free movement through the key trade route.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's comment followed a Dec 30 broadcast of aerial footage by the official China Central Television showing Fiery Cross Reef, which appeared to have been transformed into an airbase.

"The Chinese government said some time ago that they were not going to militarise those reclaimed islands," Mr Lorenzana told reporters, adding that the protest would be made through the foreign ministry.

"If it is true and we can prove that they have been putting soldiers and even weapons systems, that will be a violation of what they said."

There was no immediate comment from Chinese officials.

China and the Philippines have long sparred over the South China Sea, but relations have improved considerably under President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been courting Beijing in the hope of winning business and investment. - REUTERS

WORLD