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 to Philippine’s Secretary of National Defence Delfin Lorenzana on phone 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 amassing of Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, which has drawn criticism from Manila.
In their phone call, Austin proposed to Lorenzana several measures to strengthen defence ties, including by “enhancing situational awareness of threats in the South China Sea,” Kirby said.
The latest amassing of Chinese ships near the Philippines is among moves the United States has criticised as efforts by Beijing to intimidate smaller nations in the region.