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- The US and the Philippines discussed the placement of an upgraded rocket system in the South China Sea to defend against Chinese expansion in the disputed islands, the South China Morning Post reported.
- Regional experts told the Post that Manila and Washington discussed the deployment of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) system which would be able to launch long-range, precision-guided rockets at a Chinese presence in the Spratly Islands, a cluster of disputed islands in the sea.
- China has been steadily increasing its presence in the South China Sea, one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, and has reportedly reclaimed more than 2,900 acres of land since 2013.
The US and the Philippines discussed the placement of an upgraded rocket system in the South China Sea to defend against Chinese expansion in the disputed territory, the South China Morning Post reported.
Regional security experts told SCMP 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 a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, could be too expensive.
The Lockheed Martin rocket system would be able to launch long-range, precision-guided rockets which could strike a Chinese presence in the Spratly Islands, an expert told the Post. The Spratly Islands are a disputed cluster of islands, reefs, and atolls located close to the centre of the South China Sea.
The Philippine defense department was allocated P188.2 billion ($3.6 billion) in 2019, a 34% increase from the previous year, though it pales in comparison to the United States’ massive $686 billion defense budget for 2019.
On Monday, the Pentagon assured the "enduring alliance" between the US and Philippines and agreed on the need to "increase interoperability" between the two militaries. And in February, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said any attack on Philippine aircrafts 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, the Philippine foreign ministry said it filed a diplomatic protest over the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near Thitu Island, which the Philippines holds claims to.
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