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The US and Philippines discuss deploying missile system in South China Sea.

| 2019

The US and the Philippines discussed the placement of an upgraded missile system in the South China Sea to defend against Chinese expansion in the disputed territory, the South China Morning Post reported, echoed by Rosie Perper, Business Insider US. The Philippine defense department was allocated P188.2 billion ($3.6 billion) in 2019, a 34% increase from the previous year.

The US and Philippines discuss deploying missile system in South China Sea 2
The Philippines is angry about the presence of a Chinese fleet close to Thitu Island in the South China Sea (Photo: CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe)

Regional security experts told the South China Morning Post that, while Washington and Manila have been collaborating to deter Beijing’s increased “militarization” of the islands, they have been unable to close a deal because an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), could be too expensive. The Lockheed Martin rocket system could strike a Chinese presence in the Spratly Islands, a disputed cluster of islands, reefs, and atolls located close to the centre of the South China Sea.

Last February, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said any attack on Philippine aircraft or ships in the South China Sea would trigger a response from the US. “China’s island building and military activities in the South China Sea threaten [Philippine] sovereignty, security and therefore economic livelihood, as well as that of the United States,” Pompeo said at a joint press conference in Manila in February.

China has been steadily increasing its military presence in the South China Sea, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, in recent years. According to a Defense Department report, Beijing has reclaimed more than 2,900 acres of land since 2013. Satellite images also show increased activity on several reefs in the Spratly Islands, including reported helipads, airstrips, and radar structures, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Monday, April 8, the Philippine Foreign Ministry said it filed a diplomatic protest over the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near Thitu Island, whose ownership is claimed by the Philippines.

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