WASHINGTON — The Philippines’ top diplomat said Tuesday he is seeking more U.S. help in stopping massive land reclamation by China that could give Beijing effective control of the South China Sea.
Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario told a Washington think tank that China is attempting to enforce its so-called “nine-dash line” — the rough demarcation of China’s territory on its official maps that virtually envelopes that ocean. He described the line as “unlawful.”
China and five other claimants, including the Philippines, contest control of the potentially resource-rich waters.
The United States, a treaty ally of the Phillipines, has expressed growing concern over China’s creation in the past year of artificial islands, particularly in the Spratly Islands chain. A senior U.S. defense official said last week that China’s land reclamation, potentially for military use or airstrips, now totals about 2,000 acres.
“We are taking the position that we must do something quickly lest the massive reclamation results in de facto control of China of the South China Sea,” del Rosario told the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
He said that China’s control could lead to militarization, and also threatens the rule of law and freedom of navigation.