06/28/2011, 00.00
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Naval exercises underway in South China Sea

Manoeuvres involving more than 1200 men started this morning off the island of Palawan (Philippines) and will last 11 days. They come in the wake of paramilitary actions by Chinese ships in waters which Manila claims as its own.
Manila (AsiaNews) - The Philippines and the United States kicked off joint naval military exercises in the South China Sea, after the threatening paramilitary operations conducted by Chinese ships in waters Beijing, and Manila but also Hanoi claim as their own. The exercises which will last 11 days and involve about 1200 men started this morning off the island of Palawan (Sulu Sea, Mindanao). Next month, the U.S. will make joint exercises with the Vietnamese Navy.

Official sources deny any connection between the naval manoeuvres, presented as a commemorative spectacle, and rising tensions in the South China Sea for the control of small Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, rich in oil and gas. Today, Captain David Welch, head of the exercises emphasized the importance of collaboration between the two armies, bound by a centuries-old alliance and friendship.

For decades, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan are competing for territorial rights over the archipelagos and the control of the South China Sea, an important addition to the natural resources for the monitoring of shipping lanes of the global trade.

In recent months, Vietnam and the Philippines have accused China of increasingly aggressive actions to gain control of the South China Sea. To date, Beijing wants control of waters within 200 miles offshore from Vietnam and the Philippines. Recently, the Philippine President Aquino has accused China of having opened fire on a vessel and asked the help of the United States, to counter the threat of the militarily powerful Asian giant.
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