Philippines could go to war over South China Sea: Duterte aide

U.S. Navy: Chinese warships maneuvered in

The Pentagon first invited China to attend in 2014, in a gesture of goodwill and improving U.S. -Sino military relations. We elected President Duterte, he was transparent that he will be going bilateral [in his approach to the South China Sea dispute].

"It must not allow the People Republic of China (PRC) to continue posing a threat to Philippine interest in the WPS and the security of the region", the resolution stated.

In their resolution, the senators cited United States intelligence sources regarding China's installation of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) reef, Zamora (Subi) Reef, and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in the Spratly Islands, over which the Philippines has sovereign rights based on the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Two U.S. Navy warships - the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam - conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea Saturday, sailing within twelve nautical miles of several Chinese-controlled islands in the Paracels, territories the Chinese military forcefully seized from Vietnam in the 1970s.

Much to the displeasure of Beijing, which called the action a serious infringement of Chinese sovereignty, the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins and the cruiser USS Antietam sailed within 12 miles of four of the Paracel Islands to demonstrate the "freedom of navigation" and enforce the right of free passage in worldwide waters.

Mattis's remarks came after Beijing voiced "strong dissatisfaction" Sunday after two U.S. warships sailed by an island in the disputed Paracel Island chain.

Two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea (SCS) region on Sunday as part of Freedom of Navigation exercise.

En route to the city state, US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis said America would continue to maintain a "steady drumbeat" of naval operations around the disputed waters, adding that "only one country" seemed bothered by the vessels' routine activities.

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The U.S. military does not comment on the specifics of what it calls "freedom of navigation" exercises meant to assert the Navy's right to sail and operate in any zone deemed legal under global law.

Dr Chong said he believes FONOPs by the Quad can help send signals to China that "This is an open ocean, we have rights to go through under global law".

Sunday's operation was conducted just over a week after Beijing flew nuclear-capable bombers to a disputed island, drawing immediate criticism from the US.

The Global Times, a state-backed Chinese tabloid that does not reflect official policy, said in an editorial on Thursday that China must prepare to forcefully respond to any "extreme" US interference in the South China Sea.

"Our diplomats are robustly engaged on this", Mattis said.

"Concerns have come to me not from American government circles but also from foreign navies that are also concerned, very concerned about this continuing militarization of features in the South China Sea", he said.

He told reporters on the flight that, despite the administration's focus on North Korea, other regional security issues, including the South China Sea, will be top priorities.

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