Washington, April 11
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday discussed with his Philippine counterpart China’s recent positioning of “militia vessels” near the Philippines in the South China Sea.
Austin spoke over the phone with Philippine Secretary of National Defence Delfin Lorenzana while Austin was flying from Washington to Israel to begin an international trip. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Austin and Lorenzana discussed the situation in the South China Sea and the recent massing of Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, which has drawn criticism from Manila. China has said its vessels are there for fishing. In their phone call, Austin proposed to Lorenzana several measures to deepen defense cooperation, including by “enhancing situational awareness of threats in the South China Sea”, Kirby said. He did not elaborate. — AP