South China Sea: Philippines ‘keeping options open’ says expert
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The accusations were issued after a “very unusual” photograph was released showing US navy officers shadowing a Chinese aircraft carrier. Two US naval officers, Robert Briggs and Richard Slye of the USS Mustin, can be seen in the image, one with his feet up on the side of the ship, as they watch the actions of the Liaoning somewhere in the South China Sea.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Lu Li-shih, a former teacher at the Republic of China Naval Academy, said: “This staged photograph is definitely ‘cognitive warfare’ to show the US doesn’t regard the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] as an immediate threat.
“In the photo, Commander Briggs looks very relaxed with his feet up watching the Liaoning ship just a few thousand yards away, while his deputy is also sitting beside him, showing they take their PLA counterparts lightly.”
One Hong Kong newspaper reported that the photo sent one clear message to China: “We’re watching you.”
The image comes as the US and the Philippines begin two weeks of military drills in a show of force against China after hundreds of ships anchored off Whitsun reef last month.
The drills were postponed last year in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and are currently running at a reduced scale to reduce the risk of transmission.
Chris Cavas, an American journalist who covers Naval issues, said the image was meant to show that the US does not feel any pressure from China, but questioned why the photo was necessary as the US Navy doesn’t usually acknowledge its monitoring of Chinese ships.
In a tweet, Mr Cavas said: “Very unusual image of the commanding officer and executive officer of #destroyer USS #MUSTIN DDG89 as they shadow #Chinese #carrier #LIAONING 16 in the Philippine Sea on April 4.
“US #Navy rarely acknowledges both its efforts to shadow Chinese ships and Chinese shadowing US ships.”
The Liaoning spotted in the image has been conducting naval exercises near Taiwan recently, prompting the democratically ruled island to launch a vessel of its own on Tuesday.
The USS Mustin and other American vessels in the region have conducted “freedom of navigation operations” through the region in order to uphold innocent passage through the territorial waters.
Taiwan has been under pressure this week as 25 PLA aircraft flew into the nation’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) as part of the largest Chinese incursion to date.
The aircraft entered the island’s Southwest zone on Monday, as Taiwan’s defence ministry said it was monitoring their movements.
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China has claimed over 90 percent of the South China Sea as its own territory under its nine-dash line policy.
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