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India Joins Chorus of Support for Philippines' Maritime Sovereignty

March 27 ------ India has joined the chorus of support for Philippine maritime rights in the South China Sea, and China is pushing back.  


Top Indian diplomat S. Jaishankar visited Manila to express firm support for the Philippines' sovereignty and to explore opportunities for defense cooperation. "It is essential that India and the Philippines cooperate more closely to shape the emerging world," Jaishankar said at a press conference.  "It's natural today that two countries whose trust and comfort is growing so rapidly that we will look at various new areas of cooperation. And certainly defense and security is one of them." 


The Philippines is ordering India's BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile system, and deliveries are expected to start as early as this month.  


Manila has sharply criticized China for its interference in the Philippine exclusive economic zone. The two sides' coast guards and fishing fleets often face off at disputed reefs, particularly at Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippine military maintains a small garrison to prevent Chinese incursions. Just last weekend, Philippine mariners were injured when the China Coast Guard used water cannons to turn back a supply convoy headed for this outpost. 


The U.S., EU, Japan, and many Western governments have expressed support for the Philippines' claims, and have criticized China's desire to annex a segment of the Philippine EEZ. China, for its part, has said that it would prefer to negotiate with the Philippines alone, without the support of its allies. “Maritime disputes are issues between countries concerned and any third party is not in a position to interfere,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said Tuesday, in reference to India's statement of support. “We urge the relevant side to face facts of the issues of the South China Sea, respect the sovereignty and maritime interests of China and the efforts made by the regional countries in upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea." 


China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea as its own, including Second Thomas Shoal and other features within the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile EEZ line. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled that China's claims were not consistent with international maritime law, and it issued a judgement in favor of the Philippines. China did not participate in the proceeding and has ignored the outcome.  



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